There was 11:39 remaining when Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson called timeout with the Yellow Jackets leading 21-17. It was fourth-and-2 on the Miami 8-yard line. Johnson decided to go for it, eschewing a field-goal try for a likely seven-point lead. Further, Johnson’s play call spoke to the confidence he felt in his offense, a triple option to the right. It’s not like Miami wouldn’t be expecting it. Over the course of the night, Johnson estimated later, about three-quarters of the team’s 65 run plays were triple options.
“Coach Johnson was like, we do this every day in practice,” A-back Charles Perkins said.
Standard alignment for the offense, with A-back Deon Hill behind left tackle Errin Joe and Perkins set behind right tackle Chris Griffin. Wide receiver Darren Waller is split out to the right. Miami is in a 4-3 with middle linebacker Denzel Perryman about four yards off the line of scrimmage. He set deeper than the outside linebackers the entire game.
At the snap, Hill is into his “orbit” motion as B-back Zach Laskey charges low and forward for his mesh with quarterback Justin Thomas.
Miami’s defense converges on Laskey. Outside linebacker Raphael Kirby fills the “B” gap between right guard Shaquille Mason and Griffin in what Johnson termed an “easy stunt.” Said Johnson, “the outside linebacker came down and took (Laskey), which they were doing most of the night.” Safety Deon Bush (at the 5-yard line, just outside the right hashmark) had begun to fire forward, evidently assigned to either Thomas or Hill, but has his eyes on Laskey and is hesitating.
Thomas has pulled the ball from the mesh as Laskey dives into the line. Perhaps most critically, Laskey has the attention of end Anthony Chickillo (straddling the line of scrimmage) and Bush (at the 6-yard line on the right hashmark).
“The guy who lost the ball was the defensive end,” Johnson said. The ends had been going wide on triple-option plays and had been the pitch key for Thomas (how the end defended the option determined whether Thomas would keep or pitch), Johnson said.
With the pitch key caught up with Laskey, Thomas quick pitches to Hill. At this point, the play is two blocks from being a touchdown – Waller at the 3-yard line on the cornerback Stacey Coley and Perkins between the 8 and 9 on Bush, who is now pivoting back to Thomas. Middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, assigned to the B-back and quarterback, is charging through the gap.
“Once (Chickillo) lost the ball, Justin just pitched the ball, and there was nobody out there,” Johnson said.
Perkins puts a solid block into Bush at the 6-yard line. Waller is driving Coley back into the end zone. Perryman is at the 8.
Hill has the angle on Perryman and Bush is regaining his balance after Perkins’ block. Waller has driven Cole about six yards deep into the end zone.
Hill into the end zone. Said Thomas, “It was just a basic, simple read, and I got the read correct. They took Zach, (I) got the ball pitched and Deon got into the end zone.”