Miami running back Dallas Crawford breaks off a big gain in Saturday’s game. Crawford rushed for two TDs in the Hurricanes’ win over the Yellow Jackets. (Reuters)
MIAMI — The Miami Hurricanes allowed 17 first-quarter points, turned the ball over four times … and still won.
That’s the bottom line for the 14th-ranked Canes, who rallied from a 10-point deficit to rout visiting Georgia Tech 45-30 Saturday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium.
Canes defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said Tech came out with an unbalanced formation that he hadn’t seen them run in two years, and it took some time to adjust.
That was especially true since Miami’s first three drives lasted just two plays each, finishing with a touchdown, a fumble and an interception.
“That’s as hard as it gets,” D’Onofrio said of the new formation and the quick changes. “But our guys are built for this.”
Two other guys who are “built for this” are Canes running back Duke Johnson and quarterback Stephen Morris.
Johnson led Miami with 325 all-purpose yards, including 22 rushes for 184 yards, although he lost a fumble for the third time in two games. Morris passed for 325 yards and three TDs, although he was picked off twice.
Canes coach Al Golden said he is not concerned with Johnson’s fumbles.
“He’s going to get it fixed,” Golden said of Johnson, who averaged 8.4 yards per rush, 27 yards per reception and 28.5 yards per kickoff return. “Look at all the (touches) he gets. And he was very mindful (of not fumbling) late in the game, (carrying the ball with two hands).”
The Canes put the game away when safety Rayshawn Jenkins intercepted a Vad Lee pass with 5:15 left to end Tech’s last legitimate threat. Tech trailed 31-23 at the time and had a fourth-and-7 at the Miami 38.
The Canes (5-0, 1-0 ACC) trailed 17-7 in the first quarter before turning the game around. Georgia Tech (3-2, 2-2) has lost to Miami in each of the past five years.
Miami took its first lead of the game with 1:44 left in the third quarter when Morris hit Allen Hurns on a 69-yard touchdown pass, giving the Canes a 24-17 advantage.
“That play wouldn’t have gone as long if I hadn’t gotten that block from (fellow receiver Phillip) Dorsett,” Hurns said.
Morris’ throw made up for a mistake on the previous drive, when he was intercepted in the red zone by Tech linebacker Quayshawn Nealy.
Georgia Tech scored a touchdown with 10:38 left in the game on a 6-yard run by David Sims. But Harrison Butker missed the extra point wide left to keep the Canes ahead, 24-23.
The touchdown was set up by a Dorsett fumble on a punt return, and the drive was kept alive on a fourth-down conversion. Tech made its first three fourth-down conversion attempts.
Miami padded its lead to 31-23 with a 3-yard run by Dallas Crawford with 7:15 left in the game. That capped a 66-yard drive, all on the ground.
Crawford’s 18-yard run with 1:46 left gave the Canes a 38-23 lead. And Ladarius Gunter’s 39-yard interception return — his first career touchdown — gave the Canes their final score.
Tech took the opening kickoff and mounted a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that was capped by Sims’ 7-yard run. It was the first time all season the Canes had trailed, and it was made possible by a fourth-and-1 conversion run by Tech at the Miami 33.
Miami tied the score on its first drive, a two-play explosion that featured a 33-yard run by Johnson and a 40-yard TD pass from Morris to a diving Dorsett.
Tech went ahead 10-7 on a 45-yard field goal by Butker and added to its lead when a fumble by Miami’s Johnson was converted into a 31-yard run by Charles Perkins. Johnson’s fumble was recovered by Brandon Watts.
Miami then had its third straight two-play drive, this time ending with a Morris pass intercepted by Chris Milton.
“You couldn’t have scripted a better start,” Tech coach Paul Johnson said of his team’s 17-7 lead. “We were holding the ball, keeping it away from them.”
In the second quarter, Tech was at the Miami 22, facing a second-and-5. Had it scored a touchdown there, Tech would have gone up 24-7. Instead, Lee fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Miami’s Jimmy Gaines.
The Canes capitalized with a seven-play, 79-yard drive capped by Morris’ 4-yard pass to tight end Clive Walford.
Miami tied the score 17-17 with 29 seconds left in the first half on a 24-yard field goal by Matt Goudis. Tech had a huge time-of-possession advantage in the first half, including 13:01 to 1:59 in the first period, but could not go into the break with a lead.
“I said going in that Miami is the best team we’ve played from a skill standpoint,” Johnson said. “We missed a ton of tackles, and their running back (Johnson) is really good.”
NOTES: The Canes announced just before game time that RT Seantrel Henderson was suspended for a violation of team rules. Jon Feliciano moved from LG to RT, and Malcolm Bunche started at LG. … Tech DE Jeremiah Attaochu has 21 career sacks, including one on Saturday. … Canes C Shane McDermott started after missing two games due to a foot injury. He had been replaced by Jared Wheeler. Backup Canes RB Eduardo Clements (hamstring) missed the game. … Since 2008, Georgia Tech has rushed for more yards than any FBS team in the nation. … Tech senior Robert Godhigh, a former walk-on, entered Saturday’s game ranked third in the ACC with a 9.9 average per rush.