After one of the most disappointing losses in recent memory, the Jackets were looking to bounce back on Oct. 7 when they traveled to take on the 17th-ranked Miami Hurricanes. At first glance, the Jackets had the odds stacked against them; the Hurricanes entered the game with a 4-0 record, including a dominant win over the Texas A&M Aggies, and their fourth-year junior quarterback Tyler Van Dyke held the second-highest quarterback rating in the ACC going into the matchup.
However, Tech Head Coach Brent Key and the Jackets were determined to flip the script against the Hurricanes. Following the loss to the Bowling Green Falcons, Key made a change at defensive coordinator, promoting linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer to defensive coordinator. One of the defining aspects of Key’s tenure so far has been the way the Jackets embrace being the road underdogs. The Jackets were looking to move to 3-0 against ranked ACC opponents on the road under Key.
Tech’s offense received the ball to begin the game and got off to the opposite start they were looking for. They began with three three-and-outs and were only able to muster up 14 yards of offense throughout the first quarter.
On the other side of the ball, the Jackets’ defense came up with big stops in the first quarter: a momentous turnover on downs on the opening drive and two punts.
After a rather stagnant opening quarter for the offense, Tech was looking to turn things around in the second quarter. They began their first drive showing promise as they strung together a series of strong runs, including a 13-yard scramble from redshirt sophomore quarterback Haynes King. This has been one of King’s strong suits on the season: scrambling around to earn extra yardage. Later in the drive, after bringing the ball into Miami territory, King tried to evade pressure and ran around in the backfield, but he threw an interception, killing the drive.
Following the interception, Van Dyke led a strong drive for the Hurricanes. However, he attempted to throw a deep ball to the end zone, where junior defensive back LaMiles Brooks stepped in and snagged his first interception of the season. Forcing turnovers has been one of Key’s points of emphasis this year; the Jackets have been amongst the top teams in the nation in turnovers forced.
Unfortunately, Tech’s offense was unable to capitalize off the momentum, which resulted in a three-and-out and gave the ball back to the Hurricanes with just under a minute and a half left in the second quarter. Miami drove down the field and kicked a 30-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
Coming in as a 19-point underdog, Tech headed to the locker room behind by one possession.
Each team traded punts to start the second half. Then, Miami had a series of strong runs, and Van Dyke found freshman tight end Riley Williams who evaded a series of tackles to score a 22-yard touchdown and put Miami’s lead at 10-0 midway through the third.
Facing a two-possession deficit, King led an important drive that demonstrated his dual-threat ability. He capped off the eight-play, 75-yard drive with a six-yard rushing touchdown to cut into the deficit and make it a 10-7 game.
The defense took the momentum the offense had given as redshirt-sophomore defensive back Ahmari Harvey came up with Tech’s second interception of the night. The Jackets capitalized off the interception, and running back Jamal Haynes rushed into the endzone to take a 14-10 lead.
With the momentum on the Jackets side, the team opened the fourth quarter with star senior defensive back Jaylon King jumping the route and intercepting Van Dyke’s pass. This was the defense’s third interception of the game while Van Dyke came into the game having thrown just one interception on the season. King set the offense in perfect scoring position as he returned the ball all the way to Miami’s 13-yard line.
Tech’s offense was unable to get into the endzone though to make it a two-possession game and had to settle for a chip shot field goal, pushing the game to 17-10 in favor of the Jackets sideline.
On the ensuing drive, the Hurricanes responded with a touchdown to tie the game at 17 with just under 10 minutes to play.
The Jackets got the ball and looked to regain the lead. As King attempted to find tight end Brett Seither, he threw it into a heavily covered area, and it was intercepted. Prior to the Bowling Green game, King had only thrown two interceptions but threw two apiece versus Bowling Green and Miami.
The defense once again stepped up by coming up with a critical sack from redshirt-senior linebacker Paul Moala on third down as Miami was forced to kick a short field goal. The score gave the Hurricanes a 20-17 lead with just over six minutes left in the game.
A three-and-out by Tech’s offense ensued and forced them into punting the ball Miami proceeded to drive down the field, running the ball and the clock down.
With 34 seconds left in the game and the Jackets without any timeouts left, most teams would have taken a knee and ended the game. However, Miami’s Head Coach Mario Cristobal opted to continue running the ball. The Jackets’ defense had played tough all game and were creating havoc and had one last chance to make a big play. Tech’s defense did what they do best: force turnovers. They stripped the ball out of the Hurricanes’ hands and junior defensive lineman Kyle Kennard recovered it and gave it back to the offense with 26 seconds left and 74-yards away from a go-ahead touchdown.
After an incompletion on the first play of the drive, King threw a high ball over multiple Miami defenders to connect with redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Malik Rutherford for thirty yards leaving 14 seconds left on the clock and 44-yards to go. After clocking the ball on first down, King ran away from the pressure and found a wide open junior wide receiver Christian Leary who trotted into the endzone to take the lead 23-20 with just one second left to play.
Plays like this are what make sports such a spectacle to behold. The Jackets were coming off of an embarrassing loss and were counted out against an undefeated team on their home field in prime time.
Despite all the odds before and during the game, Tech continued their fighting spirit all the way through and left triumphant.
Tech now moves to 3-3 on the year following the miraculous win. After a bye week, the Jackets host the Boston College Eagles on Oct. 21st. While Tech has a few strong matchups remaining, they demonstrated their fighting spirit as they look to carry this momentum through the rest of the season and keep hopes alive of becoming