ATLANTA — This is the way they draw up the triple option.
Ruining Miami’s return to national prominence, Georgia Tech ran for a staggering 472 yards — the second-most ever allowed by the Hurricanes — and romped to a 41-23 victory Thursday that gives the Yellow Jackets a chance to pull out an Atlantic Coast Conference divisional title that no one seems eager to win.
Jonathan Dwyer ran for 128 yards despite playing only one half, two other players came up just short of 100 yards and the Yellow Jackets left No. 23 Miami dazed and confused on a chilly night in Atlanta.
“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.”
Dwyer ripped off a 58-yard touchdown on a play that typified a Miami defense that looked as though it had never even seen film on Georgia Tech’s unique attack. Two linebackers got caught out of position and Dwyer was off to the end zone.
By the end, the Hurricanes (7-4, 4-3) could do little more than huddle around heaters as the temperature dipped into the low 40s, totally outclassed in their first game as a ranked team in more than two years.
“That’s option football,” coach Randy Shannon said. “It’s assignment football, and when you don’t play assignment football, bad things can happen.”
The five-time national champs, 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 some 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.
“It was like a playoff game,” defensive tackle Darryl Richard said. “We’ve at least got a shot. Who knows in this conference? The way everyone’s been playing hot potato with the trophy, don’t be surprised if someone gives it up on Saturday. It’s good to have the lead in the clubhouse. Now we can just sit back and watch.”
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, the Yellow Jackets seeing no need to put him back in with a big game looming against rival Georgia on Nov. 29.
And maybe another game the following week — the ACC championship in Tampa, Fla.
“It’s not up to us now. We’ve done all we can,” Richard said. “But there’s still a chance we can go to the Orange Bowl.”
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 on the ground.
“We weren’t confused,” middle linebacker Glenn Cook said. “We just had some lapses. Nothing huge, just some small stuff. When you’re playing a good team, the small stuff is going to hurt you.”
Nesbitt dove over from the 1 on a fourth-down play with just over 4 minutes left in the third quarter, stretching the lead to 34-10 and finishing off the Hurricanes. Miami had several defensive players who went against a similar offense in high school, but they had never seen anything like this.
Cook continually overran plays or got tangled up with Georgia Tech’s zigzagging blockers. Another linebacker, Romeo Davis, got an earful from Shannon after failing to stay in his lane on Dwyer’s long TD run.
“When everything is clicking, that’s what happens,” Cox said. “You could just see. They were getting yelled at on the sideline. They were losing their heads a little bit, and that’s when we were busting the long runs.”
The Hurricanes’ offense wasn’t much better. Robert Marve and Jacory Harris both got time at quarterback, but neither had much success. Each threw an interception, and Marve’s pick was returned 26 yards for Georgia Tech’s first touchdown by defensive end Michael Johnson.
Georgia Tech outgained Miami in total yards 518-388, and it really wasn’t that close. The Hurricanes trailed 27-3 before finally reaching the end zone midway through the third quarter, and they added a meaningless touchdown with just over a minute remaining.
Miami goes from controlling its own destiny to needing a little help for the division title.
“In this conference, you never know who’s going to win,” Shannon said. “Every week, you have to show up. This week, we didn’t do a good job of showing up.”