Miami is enjoying its best start in nine seasons thanks to dominating efforts on both sides of the ball.
While Georgia Tech’s defense also ranks as one of the stingiest in the country, putting points on the board was an issue last week.
Looking to stay unbeaten, the 14th-ranked Hurricanes open ACC play Saturday seeking a fifth consecutive win over the visiting Yellow Jackets.
Miami (4-0) has looked like one of college football’s most complete teams through the season’s first four weeks, outscoring opponents by 32.8 points per game. The Hurricanes are averaging 45.3 points to rank ninth in the nation and are seventh with 12.5 allowed per contest, just ahead of Georgia Tech’s mark of 12.8.
“We’re trying to build and we have a lot of guys on our team that have been growing and building,” said Miami coach Al Golden, whose team went 7-5 in 2012. “To be honest with you, we went through that year last year and we were fortunate enough to scratch and claw and get to seven wins. … It was tough to look at a lot of times, but clearly a lot of those guys have grown up.”
After blowing out Savannah State 77-7 on Sept. 21, Miami won 49-21 at South Florida last Saturday. Stephen Morris played through an ankle injury and completed 11 of 16 passes for a season-high 222 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s in a groove right now,” Golden said of Morris, whose passer rating of 151.9 ranks sixth in the ACC. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence and the team has a lot of confidence in him.”
The Hurricanes outgained the Bulls 540-288 in total offense and went 7 for 14 on third down.
“Good, tough game on the road and now it’s time to go back and get ready for the ACC,” Golden said.
Miami now turns its attention to Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-1), which has dropped four straight in the series by an average of 16.0 points. The Yellow Jackets, though, stayed close in the last matchup, falling 42-36 in overtime Sept. 22, 2012.
Morris threw for 436 yards and two touchdowns in that game, finding Phillip Dorsett nine times for 184 yards, including a 65-yard score.
“It’s an important game because it’s a conference game,” Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said. “But our guys haven’t said anything about ‘circle the wagons, this is it.’
“They do know that Miami has a really good team and that it’s a challenge to go down there and play. It’s always exciting and fun to match up against them because they are good athletes.”
Georgia Tech won its first three games while averaging 345.3 rushing yards before falling 17-10 to Virginia Tech last Thursday. The Yellow Jackets were limited to 129 yards on the ground and Vad Lee completed just 7 of 24 passes for 144 yards and two interceptions.
“It’s been coming,” Johnson said of his team’s offensive struggles. “I’ve told you all along we’re not very good with the option. We’re terrible, in fact, and it showed. We’re not going to throw the ball 24 times and win very many games. That’s not us. We’ve got to be able to run the ball … and we didn’t do it.”
Things aren’t about to get any easier for Georgia Tech, which has dropped six consecutive games against Top 25 foes. The Yellow Jackets’ last win in Miami came 17-14 on Oct. 13, 2007.
“There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of buzz around their program,” Johnson said of the Hurricanes. “They will be fully charged and ready to go, so we will have to play much better than we did last week. But we are looking forward to that opportunity.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge.”