Georgia Tech vs. Miami
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta
On TV: ESPN
ATLANTA — Georgia Tech might have been glancing ahead just a bit after building a 24-point lead on Clemson.
The No. 15 Yellow Jackets earned a pass for their mental lapse by rallying to beat the Tigers 30-27. But Georgia Tech can't afford another Jekyll-and-Hyde performance when it travels to south Florida next week for a second straight prime-time appearance, this one against 20th-ranked Miami.
"We know we can fight in the second half and win the game," receiver Demaryius Thomas said after Thursday night's thrilling win over Clemson. "This could do a lot for us further down the road."
Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) raced to a 24-0 lead on the Tigers before the second quarter was 5 minutes old. Back came Clemson, which scored the next 27 points to take its first lead early in the final period.
Just when they looked down and out, the Yellow Jackets suddenly put together two impressive drives, both leading to field goals. Scott Blair won it with a 36-yard kick in the final minute.
Still, there were plenty of questions to answer heading into another key ACC game on Thursday night.
Georgia Tech needs a better performance out of quarterback Josh Nesbitt, who completed only 3 of 14 passes for 83 yards, with two interceptions and another pick that was overturned by a replay.
The defense can't give up a bunch of big plays (Clemson had touchdown passes of 63 and 77 yards). And the option offense must avoid a disappearing act, which happened during a 48-yard, two-first-down showing in the third quarter.
"We can't let up," Thomas said. "We didn't do that good in the third quarter. But we came back in the fourth quarter, stood up a little and made some plays."
Miami (1-0, 1-0) got off to an impressive start with a 38-34 victory at Florida State on Labor Day night. Suddenly, this next game looks like one that could shape the balance of power in the ACC for the rest of the season.
"The ACC is a tough conference," Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer said. "I don't know why everybody is putting us down. I think the Florida State-Miami game and the Clemson-Georgia Tech game showed how good the ACC really is."
The Yellow Jackets were certainly impressed with Miami's down-to-the-wire win against the Seminoles.
"They are fast, fast, fast," Thomas said. "They are looking like the old Miami teams from back in the day."
Georgia Tech showed plenty of versatility in its running game. Dwyer, the reigning ACC player of the year, was held to 66 yards on 18 carries. But Anthony Allen broke off 127 yards on just five attempts, Nesbitt carried for 91 and the Yellow Jackets finished with 301 yards on the ground.
Coach Paul Johnson, who ripped his team for a lack of effort in an easy win over Jacksonville State, was more lenient about another up-and-down performance.
"I really don't know if there are ugly wins," he said. "Any time you win a conference game and beat a good football team, I am excited. ... We made a lot of mistakes, but it is early in the year and I hope we are going to get better. People tend to forget that we have a really young football team."
Nesbitt will certainly have to get better in the passing game. It's unlikely the Yellow Jackets will be able to win another big game completing only four throws, which included a 34-yard touchdown pass by Blair on a fake field goal that worked perfectly.
"Josh did enough to help us win the game," Johnson said. "He made some mistakes with a few things, but I guarantee he is a smart kid and is going to learn from it."