Miami defense shoots down idea of a shootout
Posted: Sunday January 02, 2000 12:18 PM
Miami cornerback Leonard Myers intercepts a pass in the end zone intended for Georgia Tech's Kelly Campbell. AP
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Joe Hamilton promised one last trick for his final game at Georgia Tech. Instead, the biggest surprise in the Gator Bowl came from No. 23 Miami.
The Hurricanes' defense, that is.
"I knew we had a good defense," said Kenny Kelly, who directed two touchdown drives in Miami's 28-13 victory Saturday. "I just didn't know they would come out and play this great."
The Hurricanes gave up 421 yards and were on the field for nearly 33 minutes. But they stopped No. 17 Georgia Tech where it mattered most -- on the scoreboard.
The 13 points were a season-low for the Yellow Jackets (8-4), and their lowest output in 17 games. Hamilton, the Heisman Trophy runner-up who had set 18 school records during his four-year career, failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 14 games.
The mighty Tech offense, which had scored at least 30 points in all but one of its games, looked like a wreck.
While Kelly might have been surprised, no one associated with Miami's defense was.
After all, the Hurricanes (9-4) were 16th in total defense while playing seven teams in the Top 25. That includes Florida State and Virginia Tech, who will play for the national championship Tuesday night.
"This was not a surprise to us," linebacker Dan Morgan said. "We knew we had a good defense and had the ability to shut them down, and we went out there and did it."
They did it in style.
All week, the Hurricanes were overloaded with hype for Hamilton and a Georgia Tech offense that was No. 1 in the nation in total offense and second in scoring with an average of 40.7 points a game.
They heard it at Gator Bowl functions, whenever Georgia Tech was introduced. They heard it from the media, who figured this game had all the makings of a touchdown-a-minute thriller. Even coach Butch Davis said he feared a quadruple overtime with an NBA-type score unless someone's defense performed well.
The Hurricanes did.
"All we heard about was Hamilton and how they were going to score 40 points," defensive tackle Matt Sweeney said. "It was fueling our fire. We wanted to get the respect we deserve."
Miami also showed some offense.
Clinton Portis, the freshman tailback who led the Hurricanes in rushing, raced 73 yards for a touchdown and wound up with 117 yards on 12 carries. James Jackson added 107 yards and a touchdown, while Kelly and Ken Dorsey each threw for a touchdown.
But the defense carried the load.
"Our offense played off the inspiration of our defense," tight end Daniel Franks said. "With Georgia Tech having the nation's No. 1 offense, our defense knew they were going to have something to prove, and I think the offense fed off that."
The loss ended Tech's five-game winning streak in bowl games, dating to 1978. And it ended Hamilton's career on a sour note. While he scored on a 17-yard scramble and set Gator Bowl records for completions and attempts (20 of 40), he also threw two interceptions and was sacked three times.
"I don't think a lot of Joe's problems were Joe's problems," Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary said. "He had some receivers breaking routes, and we needed to sturdy up the offensive line. Too many times, he was throwing off his back foot because of pressure."
Blame Miami's defense for that.
It was a performance reminiscent of Miami teams playing with a national championship on the line. And the Gator Bowl could turn out to be a first step toward the Hurricanes returning to the days when they won four national titles in four years.
They lose only five seniors off this team, provided Franks stays for his senior season.
"You can't tell me Miami isn't one of the top 15 teams in the country," Davis said. "We want our guys to buy into the idea that we're closing the gap. We've paid our dues. I believe our program is getting into a position to have a chance to play for a championship."
They certainly showed in the Gator Bowl they have a defense to win one.
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