ATLANTA — Hold off on Miami's return to national prominence. The Hurricanes ran into a huge roadblock Thursday: Georgia Tech's triple-option offense.
The Yellow Jackets ran No. 23 Miami ragged in a game that could have moved the onetime powerhouse to the cusp of playing for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in Tampa and a spot in a major bowl. Georgia Tech piled up 472 yards on the ground — the second-most ever allowed by the Hurricanes — in a 41-23 rout.
Jonathan Dwyer ripped off 128 yards with just 10 carries in the first half, including a 58-yard touchdown on a play that typified a Miami defense that looked as though it had never even seen video of Georgia Tech's unique, run-oriented scheme. Two linebackers got caught out of position, and Dwyer was off to the end zone.
"We executed at a high level," said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, architect of the scheme that harkens back to an era when offenses such as the wishbone were all the rage. "When you do those things right, you can have some big plays. It's just the nature of the beast."
By the end, the Hurricanes (7-4, 4-3) could do little more than huddle around heaters on a chilly night, totally outclassed in their first game as a ranked team in more than two years.
"That's option football," Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "It's assignment football, and when you don't play assignment football, bad things can happen."
The five-time national champions, who had a losing record in 2007 but came into the game with five straight wins, could have clinched at least a tie for first in the Coastal Division with a win. And there was the possibility of wrapping it up Saturday if some other ACC games went their way.
Now, the race is more confusing than ever.
Georgia Tech (8-3, 5-3) takes over first in the convoluted Coastal, but the Yellow Jackets will need help because three other contenders would win on a tiebreaker. Still, it was an impressive display by the triple-option offense, which piled up the most rushing yards ever on the Hurricanes other than a 536-yard effort by Auburn in 1944.
Dwyer scored again on his last play of the night, a 6-yard run in which he dragged along a couple of defenders and bounced off another, twisting his left knee. He spent much of the second half on a sideline exercise bike.
Georgia Tech piled up the fifth-most rushing yards in school history with its most prolific effort in 30 years. Two other players, wingback Roddy Jones (97) and quarterback Josh Nesbitt (93), just missed giving the Yellow Jackets three 100-yard rushers. Lucas Cox broke off a 32-yard touchdown and finished with 78 yards rushing.
"We weren't confused," middle linebacker Glenn Cook said. "We just had some lapses. …When you're playing a good team, the small stuff is going to hurt you."
The Hurricanes offense wasn't much better. Former Plant High standout Robert Marve and Jacory Harris both played quarterback, but neither had much success. Each threw an interception. Marve's was returned 26 yards for a touchdown by defensive end Michael Johnson.