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Walton scores 3 TDs, Miami tops Georgia Tech 38-21
Yellow Jackets will suffer worst season since 1994
Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas (5) prepares to throw a short pass during the first half of Saturday's game against Miami in Miami Gardens, Fla. - photo by Lynne Sladky

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Perhaps looking to rekindle some past magic, Georgia Tech stayed in the same hotel this weekend as it did when it capped last season with an Orange Bowl victory.

The ploy didn’t work.

Not much has in 2015 for the Yellow Jackets.

It’s been 65 years since a team went on this sort of freefall, from Orange Bowl champions one season to a losing record the next. And even returning to the scene of last year’s bowl win wasn’t enough to get Georgia Tech back on track, with the Yellow Jackets ending their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule with a 38-21 loss to Miami on Saturday.

All that’s left for Georgia Tech in 2015 is the annual rivalry game with Georgia next weekend.

“Another disappointing performance,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “Can’t seem to get out of our own way.”

Broderick Snoddy, Clinton Lynch and Matthew Jordan had rushing scores for Georgia Tech (3-8, 1-7), which lost starting quarterback Justin Thomas to injury in the first quarter. Snoddy’s touchdown gave the Yellow Jackets a 7-0 lead, and then Miami scored the next 31 points.

The game was a microcosm of Georgia Tech’s season: Strong start, then nothing but problems.

“I’ve never had anything like this,” Johnson said. “I don’t have any answers. I know people are frustrated. Hell, I’m frustrated.”

Widely picked to win the ACC’s Coastal Division this season, Georgia Tech will endure its worst season since 1994. That team went 1-10 overall and 0-8 in the ACC; in the 20 seasons that followed, the Yellow Jackets never finished with a losing record in conference play, that streak ending this year along with Georgia Tech’s run of 18 consecutive bowl appearances.

And the only win this club got against an ACC rival was the miracle finish to beat Florida State.

“Fight ‘til the end,” Jordan said.

Mark Walton ran for two touchdowns and caught a pass for another score, Miami turned four turnovers into 21 points and the Hurricanes (7-4, 4-3) enhanced their bowl resume. Brad Kaaya passed for 300 yards and a touchdown for Miami, which hasn’t had consecutive losing seasons since 1976 and 1977 — and ensured they won’t change that this year.

“I hope what they played for was just pride,” Miami interim coach Larry Scott said. “Pride, and the commitment they made to each other. As far as playing for coaches, we’re all in this together. Our coaches had to coach with pride, they had to remember the commitment we made to these young people and that’s what it was all about.”

Jermaine Grace fell on a fumble for a score and Joe Yearby ran in another for Miami. The game was delayed for 28 minutes in the third quarter because lightning was detected in the area.

Everything for the Yellow Jackets was a debacle on Saturday. Thomas left early with his injury, and Georgia Tech fumbled the ball nine times — losing only two.

“You always have to expect the worst so I can get myself ready,” said Jordan, who replaced Thomas and completed 4 of 8 passes for 59 yards and an interception. “On the sidelines I stay focused-in, so I usually know what’s going on.”

Jordan ran the ball 28 times for 60 yards, and was charged with six of the nine fumbles. Marcus Marshall led the Yellow Jackets with 74 rushing yards.

“We have to be thankful for the things we did get done and look forward to next week,” Georgia Tech defensive end KeShun Freeman said. “We have to keep the faith. The way things look, things can change in a split second. So we have to keep going and not look back.”

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