“You look back and it just seems like it wasn’t meant to be for us,” Paul Johnson said, after the loss to Miami last season.
That seems to be a common theme for the Jackets when facing the Hurricanes under Johnson, as Tech has only posted a 1-4 record against them. The last win for the Jackets in the series came in 2008, Johnson’s first year at Tech, when Tech defeated Miami 41-23 here in Atlanta. Since then, the Jackets have lost four in a row to the Hurricanes, including the 42-36 overtime loss last season.
From 2009 to 2012, the Jackets have averaged 311.6 rushing yards per game and average 31.9 points per game. Over the span of those four seasons, Miami has had much more success than most teams defending Tech’s option attack, holding Tech to an average of 221.8 rushing yards and 17.5 points per game. In 2009, the Hurricanes were able to hold a Tech team that would go on to win the ACC Championship to just 95 yards on the ground.
“They’re good up front, they have a good defensive secondary and they are really fast and swarm to the ball well, which makes it hard for big plays to occur,” redshirt senior center Jay Finch said.
Though strategy is certainly important in football, it is not everything. Coach Johnson mentioned in his weekly press conference that ever since he coached at Navy, the Miami defense has pretty much lined up the same way against him. He also mentioned how every team Tech has played this season pretty much lined up the same way to defend the Jackets. If every team is lining up the same against the Jackets, there has to be something that has made the Hurricanes more successful than most. Finch believes it is their effort that has been key.
“I’m not saying they aren’t good and that they don’t do things that don’t give us trouble, but from playing against them, I think their effort is probably the biggest key,” Finch said.
After digging themselves into a hole in the Coastal Division race with last week’s loss to Virginia Tech, the upcoming game against Miami is even more important if the Jackets hope to return to Charlotte for the second year in a row. Although it would not be impossible to win the Coastal Division after losing to both Miami and Virginia Tech, the Jackets did just that last season, Finch still looks at this as a must-win game for Tech.
“I’d say so because you never want to have to count on someone else to help you. That’s what we did with [Virginia Tech]; we let them beat us and now we need someone to beat them for us to be back on top. So every week is a must-win when it comes ton conference play,” Finch said.
Not only is this game important for Tech as far as the standings go, but it also the last opportunity for seniors, like Finch, to get a victory over Miami before leaving. Finch also believes it is an important win for Tech as far as getting over the hump that has been Miami football.
“I’d say so. I felt the same way against Virginia Tech because I had only beaten them once in my career and I was looking to beat them again, and that didn’t happen. It is something I want to go out and accomplish because I’ve beat Duke every year, and I’ve beaten UNC every year, but there’s a select few that I’ve only beaten once, so I’d like to finish the drill,” Finch said.
After being asked what he thinks this year’s offense needs to improve on the most to be successful against Miami and finally be able to pick up a win over the Hurricanes, Finch made it very clear.
“After looking at last week, I mean, we had how many penalties?”