Miami handles Georgia Tech in final home game of season
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) -- Miami's seniors left their home field as winners, one more time. So did a coaching staff that kept the season together when an all-out collapse seemed like a very real possibility.
Mark Walton ran for two touchdowns and caught a pass for another score, Miami turned four turnovers into 21 points and the Hurricanes enhanced their bowl resume by easing past Georgia Tech 38-21 on Saturday. Brad Kaaya passed for 300 yards and a touchdown for Miami, which hasn't had consecutive losing seasons since 1976 and 1977 -- and ensured they won't change that this year.
"I hope what they played for was just pride," Miami interim coach Larry Scott said. "Pride, and the commitment they made to each other. As far as playing for coaches, we're all in this together. Our coaches had to coach with pride, they had to remember the commitment we made to these young people and that's what it was all about."
Jermaine Grace fell on a fumble for a score and Joe Yearby ran in another for Miami (7-4, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). The game was delayed for 28 minutes in the third quarter because lightning was detected in the area.
Broderick Snoddy, Clinton Lynch and Matthew Jordan had rushing scores for Georgia Tech (3-8, 1-7), which lost starting quarterback Justin Thomas to injury in the first quarter. Snoddy's touchdown gave the Yellow Jackets a 7-0 lead, and then Miami scored the next 31 points.
"Another disappointing performance," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "Can't seem to get out of our own way."
Miami improved to 3-1 under Scott, whose future is unknown -- as is the case with the rest of the Hurricanes' staff, after coach Al Golden was fired last month.
Miami averaged 7.1 yards per play, and put together a season-best 97-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter -- one capped by Walton's first touchdown of the day. Walton became the third Miami freshman to run for a score and catch a scoring pass in the same ACC game, joining Stacy Coley and Travis Benjamin.
"We just try to stay together," said Walton, who now has eight rushing scores in his freshman season. "When we stay together, nobody can beat us."
Widely picked to win the ACC's Coastal Division this season, Georgia Tech will endure its worst season since 1994. That team went 1-10 overall and 0-8 in the ACC; in the 20 seasons that followed, the Yellow Jackets never finished with a losing record in conference play. And the only win this club got against an ACC rival was the miracle finish to beat Florida State.
Everything was a debacle on Saturday. Thomas left early with his injury, and Georgia Tech fumbled the ball nine times -- losing only two.
"You always have to expect the worst so I can get myself ready," said Jordan, who replaced Thomas and completed 4 of 8 passes for 59 yards and an interception. "On the sidelines I stay focused-in, so I usually know what's going on."
Jordan ran the ball 28 times for 60 yards, and was charged with six of the nine fumbles. Marcus Marshall led the Yellow Jackets with 74 rushing yards.
For Miami, Michael Badgley tied a school record with a 57-yard field goal to end the first half. Juwon Young and Al-Quadin Muhammad -- a redshirt sophomore who's expected to consider turning pro when the season ends -- combined for 24 tackles.
If it was Muhammad's last home game, he wasn't saying.
"I don't want to talk about that right now," Muhammad said.
Chris Herndon and Herb Waters each had three catches for 66 yards for Miami, and for Waters it came in his final collegiate home game.
"Felt great coming out with a W," Waters said. "It was really emotional at the beginning, and in the final seconds it got emotional again. Just happy to be here at the University of Miami with the brothers I have here today."