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Career day by Choice leads Tech

POSTED: October 17, 2007 5:08 a.m.

 

MIAMI — Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey got one last special memory of the Orange Bowl, courtesy of Tashard Choice.

The senior ran for a career-high 204 yards on 37 carries against an injury-depleted Miami defensive line, quarterback Taylor Bennett rushed for two touchdowns and the Yellow Jackets dominated the second half to beat the Hurricanes 17-14 Saturday.

Choice had 152 of his yards after halftime for Georgia Tech (4-3, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), which became the fourth team since 1978 to beat Miami in three consecutive seasons, joining Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Florida State.

"It’s pretty impressive," Gailey said. "I didn’t know he had that many carries, but I knew he carried it a lot and I knew that he wanted it. I knew that he wanted the football."

Travis Bell’s 39-yard field goal with 7:34 left was the eventual game-winner for Georgia Tech, which got the ball back 2 minutes later and ran out the clock — dealing the Hurricanes’ ACC title hopes a serious blow.

Shawnbrey McNeal had a 39-yard touchdown run on a fourth-down play for Miami (4-3, 1-2 ACC), which also got a fourth-quarter TD pass from Kyle Wright to Sam Shields. But the Hurricanes were outgained 244-79 after halftime and lost at home for the first time this season.

"There’s a lot of history here," said Wright, whose team has lost two straight. "There’s a lot of tradition in the Orange Bowl that a lot of us don’t really understand. To know that you’ve let people down in the last year of the Orange Bowl is truly disappointing."

Gailey never seems to leave the Orange Bowl disappointed.

He played for the Florida Gators in 1971 when they pulled off the infamous "Florida Flop" — where Gator defenders dropped to the Orange Bowl turf and let Miami score, putting Florida’s offense back on the field and giving John Reaves the chance to break Jim Plunkett’s record for NCAA career passing yards.

And two years ago, his underdog Tech team came into the Orange Bowl, stunned the then-No. 3 ranked Hurricanes and knocked Miami out of the ACC and national-title pictures.

"It’s got some great memories for me, to say the least," said Gailey, whose club beat Miami in Atlanta last season as well.

The Yellow Jackets trailed 7-0 at halftime, and came out after intermission with a simple plan: Give Choice the ball.

It worked.

Choice went 54 yards on Tech’s opening drive of the second half, and the Yellow Jackets pulled into a 7-7 tie when Bennett curled to his left and made a 10-yard sprint for the score.

Miami went three-and-out on its next possession, and Georgia Tech rode Choice again on its next drive, giving him the ball eight times on an eight-minute, 14-play, 77-yard grind capped by Bennett going in on another bootleg from 3 yards out.

"The fans, they booed us the whole game," Choice said. "It’s fun. They started as soon as I came out. They made fun of my name. They said, ‘You’re the second choice."’

Not by game’s end, he wasn’t.

The Hurricanes answered with a long drive to tie the game. McNeal came through again on fourth down — getting 6 yards on fourth-and-1 from the 15 — and Wright hit Shields with a 4-yard pass with 10:37 left.

But after Bell’s field goal, the Hurricanes went nowhere.

And their season — which still includes road trips to Florida State, Virginia Tech and Boston College — is going nowhere fast.

"Everybody’s got a piece in this loss," Wright said.

Added senior Darnell Jenkins, one of several Miami players who made emotional pleas to teammates in the past week, with hopes of turning the season around: "It’s just a hurting feeling."

Bennett threw for 114 yards for Georgia Tech. Graig Cooper had 66 yards on 12 carries for Miami, which gained 167 yards on the ground but went 4-for-14 on third-down attempts.

"We’re going to be on these guys tougher because we don’t accept losses, not as coaches, not as a staff, not as players," Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "We believe that we can win games and we’re going to continue to believe that we can win games. We’re going to be hard to the players. We’re going to be hard on ourselves. And I’m going to be hard on myself."



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