Heat sure to increase as 'Canes melt again

Published October 29, 2006

ATLANTA - Twenty-six seconds into the game, Reggie Ball was limping and Georgia Tech was already behind.

Not the way the Yellow Jackets wanted to start coming off a loss to Clemson.

But Ball rebounded with one clutch throw after another, Calvin Johnson got back in the offense and No. 21 Georgia Tech took a major step toward the Atlantic Coast Conference title game, rallying Saturday for a 30-23 victory over Miami.

The Yellow Jackets scored 17 straight points in the fourth quarter, including Ball's tiebreaking, 1-yard touchdown to pass to Johnson with 6:18 remaining. The defense then knocked the ball away from Hurricanes quarterback Kyle Wright - one of four Miami turnovers - and Tashard Choice ripped off a 24-yard TD run.

"We knew this was our moment," said Johnson, who failed to catch a pass for the first time in a 31-7 loss to Clemson. "If we wanted to get to the ACC championship game, we had to win this game."

Win, they did, taking command of the Coastal Division race. The Yellow Jackets merely need to win two of their last three conference games to secure a spot in the league's Dec. 2 championship at Jacksonville.

After next week's trip to North Carolina State, Georgia Tech faces the two worst teams in the conference: North Carolina, which hasn't beaten a Division I-A team, and winless Duke.

Miami is assured of at least three losses for the third straight year, which will keep the heat on embattled coach Larry Coker.

"We're sick and tired of losing," Wright said, "but we're the only ones who can do anything about that."

The Hurricanes got off to the best possible start. On the first play from scrimmage, Ball was hit from behind by Calais Campbell while attempting to scramble, the ball popped loose at the 19 and Glen Cook returned it for a touchdown.

Ball got up limping but was right back in on the next possession. He completed three of his first 16 passes in the first half, but then he went 8-for-11 over the final two quarters.

Choice rushed for 107 yards, becoming the first back all season to put up 100 yards on the Hurricanes. His touchdown - two plays after Adamm Oliver stripped the ball from Wright - made it 30-16.

Miami needed just over a minute to finally score its first offensive touchdown. Wright hooked up with Greg Olsen on a 41-yard scoring pass that gave the Hurricanes a chance with 2:37 left.

But Coker elected to kick deep with one timeout remaining, saying later that he didn't have much confidence in his team's ability to get an onside kick.

Georgia Tech went three-and-out before Durant Brooks got off a long punt, Miami's Rashaun Jones fumbled, and Chris Dunlap recovered for Georgia Tech with 19 seconds left.

Miami, bolstered by the return of 12 players who served one-game suspensions for their role in a brawl against Florida International, built a 10-0 lead on its first offensive possession, getting the first of three field goals by Jon Peattie. Wright threw for 246 yards and Javarris James rushed for 113 yards, but Miami couldn't overcome three fumbles and an interception.