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PREVIEW: Tech trying to avoid second straight ACC loss

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was frustrated with his team after last week’s loss to Virginia Tech, telling reporters, “I’ve told you all along we’re not very good with the option. We’re terrible, in fact, and it showed.” (Reuters)

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was frustrated with his team after last week’s loss to Virginia Tech, telling reporters, “I’ve told you all along we’re not very good with the option. We’re terrible, in fact, and it showed.” (Reuters)

MIAMI, Fla. — Georgia Tech’s hopes to repeat as ACC Coastal Division champion took a big hit with a loss to Virginia Tech last week, and the Yellow Jackets must get their vaunted triple-option rushing attack going at 14th-ranked Miami today.

Georgia Tech can ill afford to lose two conference games in a nine-day span, but rushing for 129 yards — as it did against the Hokies — probably will not bode well for the Yellow Jackets. The Hurricanes have not allowed more than 139 yards rushing this season.

Miami opens its conference slate against the Yellow Jackets and brings a six-game winning streak into the matchup.The Hurricanes have breezed through most of their early-season schedule — other than a five-point victory against Florida — and outscored their other three opponents 160-34.

Georgia Tech committed three turnovers last week and was penalized nine times — including five false-start penalties in the first half — leading head coach Paul Johnson to lament to reporters after the game, “I’ve told you all along we’re not very good with the option. We’re terrible, in fact, and it showed.”

Miami doesn’t look to have lost a step on offense after last season’s production, and the defense has made major strides stopping up the holes from 2012.

But one area remains a major concern for the Hurricanes as they prepare for today’s game.

That would be penalties.

The Hurricanes are averaging 62 yards a game in penalties, which ranks 13th in the 14-team ACC.

They have been penalized 30 times in four games, which is more than three teams (Virginia Tech, Duke, and Wake Forest) have been penalized in five outings.

Worse has been the timing.

Against South Florida last week, holding penalties negated Duke Johnson’s 100-yard kickoff return and Phillip Dorsett’s 66-yard punt return. Later in the same game, the Hurricanes had back-to-back penalties (holding, false start) at the beginning of a drive, negating a first down and eventually leading to an interception returned for a touchdown.

“This is three weeks in a row now that we’re talking about it,” coach Al Golden said. “We’ve shown them examples and trying to make sure the leadership holds guys accountable.

“Some of them have just been so egregious. They’ve taken points off the board or swapped the field.”

Late in the Florida game, with the Hurricanes clinging to a 14-9 lead, sophomore corner Tracy Howard intercepted a pass and returned it 36 yards to Miami’s 48-yard line.

But a personal foul penalty moved the Hurricanes back to their 33, and they ended up punting.

Such mistakes will be costly against Georgia Tech, Golden said.

“It’s tough for us because it’s part of our foundation,” Golden said. “It’s who we want to be. Right now that’s the one element that is missing. We’re addressing it on many different fronts. Hopefully, we’re get it squared away.

“It wish I could say, ‘Hey, it’s these two people’ and let’s get them out of the game. It hasn’t been like that. There’s enough blame to go around.

“Again, that starts with me. I’ve got to continue to take responsibility myself, and I have to make sure we get it fixed.”