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Georgia Tech coach Brent Key told reporters he thought Miami would be ‘taking a knee’ on offense with the Hurricanes holding a 20-17 lead and the clock ticking down to 35 seconds in the fourth quarter.

Hurricanes coach Mario Cristobal agreed, telling reporters after Saturday’s game: ‘We should have taken a knee.’

Instead, Miami’s second-year head coach committed what ESPN announcer Tim Hasselbeck described as ‘the single worst coaching decision’ he had ever seen on a football field.

Miami ran the ball, Hurricanes running back Don Chaney lost a fumble, and a review upheld the turnover.

The Yellow Jackets then went 74 yards in 24 seconds, culminating with Haynes King’s game-winning, 44-yard touchdown pass to Christian Leary with two ticks of the clock remaining. Final score: Georgia Tech 23, Miami 20. 

“That’s one of the biggest coaching mistakes at this level that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

Miami could’ve taken a knee and closed out Georgia Tech. Instead … disaster struck pic.twitter.com/I5vAvtn78p

— ESPN (@espn) October 8, 2023

Hurricanes coach Mario Cristobal later admitted to reporters: ‘We should have taken a knee’

Christian Leary and teammates celebrate after his game-winning touchdown against Miami


Mario Cristobal: ‘Thought we’d get the first down, and we talked about two hands on the ball. But that’s not good enough. Just should’ve told him to take a knee. That’s it. Fumbled the ball at the 25, and they went 75 yards in two plays. So no excuse.

Reporter: ‘Just for clarification: It was third and 10, so you’re saying you could’ve gotten the first down? Is that why you did it?

Cristobal: ‘We should’ve taken a knee.’


Afterwards, ESPN cameras caught Miami center Matt Lee on the sideline appearing to say: ‘What the f*** are we doing?’ 

‘Not going to make an excuse for it, say we should’ve done this or that,’ Miami coach Mario Cristobal said of not taking a knee. ‘That’s it. We should’ve done it. Sometimes you get carried away with just, finish the game and run it. I should’ve stepped in and said, ”Hey, just take a knee.”’ 

Amazingly, Cristobal fell into a similar trap while coaching at Oregon in 2018.

Leading Stanford 31-28 with under a minute to play, Cristobal could have run the clock down to 16 seconds by kneeling and ultimately punting on fourth down. Instead, he ran the ball, leading to a lost fumble, game-tying field goal, and an overtime loss to the Cardinal.

On Saturday, the Hurricanes (4-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) paid a huge price for Cristobal’s gaffe. 

King was incomplete under pressure on first down of the last drive, then connected with Malik Rutherford for a 30-yard gain. Rutherford was inbounds and the clock ran until King spiked the ball with 10 seconds left. The scoreboard showed Georgia Tech had no time-outs remaining; the play-by-play of the game suggested the Yellow Jackets still may have had one.

Georgia Tech head coach Brent Key, center, celebrates with players after the dramatic win

Kyle Kennard #9 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets reacts after a fumble recovery in the fourth

Either way, then came the miracle.

King — maybe channeling his inner Doug Flutie from another deep throw that stunned Miami in 1984 — rolled right, waited and Leary got well behind two Miami defenders. The throw hit Leary in stride, he slid into the end zone as a few items of debris rained down from the stands.

‘I felt it as soon as it left my fingers,’ King said.

The Hurricanes had a six-lateral try on the final play of the game, but got stopped near midfield.

Tyler Van Dyke threw for 288 yards, but was intercepted three times for Miami. Xavier Restrepo caught 12 passes for 144 yards for the Hurricanes, who got a rushing score from Henry Parrish.

King and Jamal Haynes had third-quarter rushing touchdowns in a span of just over 2 minutes for the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech’s under-new-management defense — the team elevated Kevin Sherrer to defensive coordinator after a loss to Bowling Green last week — frustrated Miami for much of the night, then somehow got the takeaway it needed at the end.

Amazingly, Cristobal fell into a similar trap while coaching at Oregon against Stanford  in 2018

Miami outgained Georgia Tech 454-250, had 23 first downs to the Yellow Jackets’ 12, and none of it mattered. Georgia Tech found a way, and Van Dyke didn’t throw blame at anyone but himself — even when asked after the game if he was surprised offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson didn’t call for a kneel-down.

‘We trust our offensive coordinator,’ Restrepo said. ‘We trust each other.’

Miami had scored all 16 quarters it had played in the first four games, and came into the night as one of three teams nationally to score at least 38 points in every game this season. But it took until the final play of the half, a 30-yard field goal by Miami’s Andy Borregales, to get any scoring from either side.

Georgia Tech went up 17-10 early in the fourth on a field goal soon after Van Dyke’s third interception. Miami scored the game’s next 10 points.

Borregales was good from 39 yards out midway through the fourth to give Miami the lead, and the Hurricanes put themselves in position to win — then somehow managed to lose.

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