Tech came into their matchup against Miami looking to avoid a three-game losing streak. Miami came into the season with high expectations but came into the game with a 4-4 record. However, they were coming off of several weeks where they beat back-to-back ranked opponents. Miami’s quarterback, Tyler Van Dyke, who has stepped in following starting quarterback D’Eriq King’s season-ending injury, had thrown for over 500 yards in his last game.
The Jackets started with the ball and got an early first down but failed to get much offense going after that and were forced to punt the ball. Miami’s opening drive started with a series of strong passing plays from Van Dyke. They capped off the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Van Dyke to take a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
On Tech’s next drive they were unable to get any offense going and were forced to punt after a three and out. In response, Van Dyke led Miami down the field and threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to widen their lead to 14-0.
Facing a two-score deficit, they showcased the strength of their running back group as junior Jordan Mason took a run 71 yards for a touchdown. With the score, the Jackets were able to cut the deficit in half to make the score 14-7.
The final minutes of the first quarter were highlighted by turnovers by both teams. Tech took advantage of a Miami fumble by Charleston Rambo. Freshman Jahmyr Gibbs ran 29 yards for a touchdown to tie the game 14-14 early in the second quarter after the turn of possession. Midway through the second quarter, the Jackets’ defense made a big highlight play. Star safety junior Juanyeh Thomas popped the ball out to force a fumble and Jaylon King caught the ball and returned it all the way back for a touchdown.
The play not only boosted Tech to a 21-17 lead, but also got the Jackets to three takeaways in less than a half. The Jackets headed into halftime with the lead.
Miami began the second half with the ball and a big 60-yard passing play to open the drive brought them in scoring range. A few plays later, they would rush it in and regain the lead.
Trailing 24-21, Tech began their drive with a balanced attack before freshman Jeff Sims was able to find Gibbs for a 50-yard touchdown, taking the lead 28-24. On Miami’s ensuing drive, the Jackets made a big stop to force a turnover on downs by the Hurricanes.
Tech was unable to capitalize off of the great starting field position as they were forced to attempt a long 50-yard field goal by senior Brent Cimiglia, which was not successful. Miami’s next drive took them down into the redzone, but Tech’s defense stood tall and forced Miami to open the fourth quarter’s scoring with a field goal. The field goal cut the Jackets’ lead to just 28-27.
Following a three and out in which Tech was unable to gain a yard, Miami got the ball at their own 49 yard line with just over 12 minutes left.
Van Dyke converted off of the field position with a 15-yard touchdown pass to give them the lead. In order to give themselves a touchdown’s worth of breathing room, Miami attempted to go for two points. On the attempt, Thomas made another spectacular highlight play as he read the pass and took it the entire length of the field to give the Jackets two points. This was the program’s first defensive 2-point conversion since 1989. Following an unconventional series of plays, Miami led 33-30 with a little over 10 minutes left in the game.
Through the rest of the game, Tech’s defense continued to make important stops and keep them within striking distance. However, penalties continued to plague the offense as they had multiple big plays negated due to penalties.
Early on in the season, they had improved on their persistent penalties from a year ago, but over the past couple of weeks, it has become a recurring problem. Despite the penalties, their defense still allowed for an ending where a late, game-winning score was still in the realm of possibility.
Miami made a timely stop and the Jackets were unable to mount the comeback. The Hurricanes finished out the game with a 33-30 win, bringing their season record to 5-4 and making them third in the division. On the other hand, Tech fell to 3-6 on the year and sixth in the division.
The loss makes their chances of becoming bowl-eligible even slimmer as two of their last three games are against teams in the current top ten. A bright spot in the performance was Thomas’ performance which earned him ACC Defensive Player of the Week.
When talking about his defense, Collins said, “the biggest theme going into this week is big time players make big time plays, and we’ve got some really good players who made their share of plays today.”
Tech looks to build off of the positives from this game and fix up some of the negatives as they try to bounce back when they host Boston College at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13.