ATLANTA — Mark Richt will be looking for offensive balance in his first Atlantic Coast Conference game as Miami’s coach.
Richt’s opponent, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, will try to restart the spread-option offense while hosting No. 14 Miami on Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets were held to 124 total yards, their lowest total in nine years under Johnson, in last week’s 26-7 loss to No. 5 Clemson.
Johnson said his offense was in disarray and took a more hands-on role with the unit in practice this week.
Miami (3-0, 0-0 ACC) has enjoyed a strong start under Richt, with lopsided wins over Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic and Appalachian State.
Georgia Tech (3-1, 1-1) opened its season by beating Boston College in Dublin and had its offense rolling when it overwhelmed Vanderbilt 38-7 on Sept. 17. All momentum was lost when Clemson’s defense shut down the Yellow Jackets.
Though the early schedule was soft, Miami leads the nation with its average of 7.7 points allowed. Johnson said his offensive players have to show better poise than against Clemson.
“You can’t play the game afraid to make a mistake,” Johnson said. “You just can’t. You have to go play and have confidence in your ability that you can play with those guys and you can hang with them.”
Miami running back Mark Walton has seven rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Brad Kaaya has thrown seven TD passes.
“We put a lot of pride in being able to run the ball well,” Richt said. “When people talk about balance, balance for me is if they pack everybody in the box to stop the run, then we must be able to throw good enough in those situations.
“If they start double-covering our receivers, and give us a softer box as far as numbers, we must be able to run the ball. I think we’ve got a good mix of that.”
Here are some things to know about Miami’s visit to Georgia Tech:
SCOUTING MIAMI: The Hurricanes are looking for what would be their second 4-0 start since 2004; they also won their first four games in 2013, when they went on to start 7-0. But Miami has been somewhat vulnerable in the game preceding its annual showdown with Florida State, going 4-4 in its last eight such games. The Hurricanes play host to the Seminoles next week.
APOLOGIES, PRESBYTERIAN: Johnson was critical of his offense, but he also sought perspective when reminding reporters Clemson played for the national championship last year and may have a stronger defense this season. “We’ll see how it plays out this week,” he said. “We didn’t lose to Presbyterian, guys.”
RICHT REUNION: Richt won two Southeastern Conference championships in 15 years at Georgia before he was fired after the 2015 season. He quickly landed at Miami, his alma mater. He said his extended family, including his parents, brother and sisters, still live in Athens and will attend the game.
BYE BLUES: Miami is one of four teams who got more than a week to get ready for a game against Georgia Tech this season. Georgia Southern gets 10 days before facing the Yellow Jackets on Oct. 15, Duke has a bye week before playing Georgia Tech on Oct. 29 (the Yellow Jackets have the same bye week) and North Carolina is also off the week before it plays the Jackets on Nov. 5.
“I think that’s a rule in our league. I think everybody takes a week off before they play us,” Johnson said. For the record, this is Miami’s first time with extra days before a Georgia Tech game since 2009.
MILESTONE WATCH: Kaaya’s next touchdown pass will be his 50th as a member of the Hurricanes. Only Ken Dorsey (86) and Jacory Harris (70) have more. And Saturday will be the 200th game of Richt’s career as a head coach; he enters this one with a 148-51 record.