|Containing Calvin Johnson not enough for Miami's cause
Posted: Oct. 28, 2006
By Sarah Rothschild
ATLANTA - Strong safety Kenny Phillips spent nearly the entire game following Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson's every move, and after the University of Miami's 30-23 loss, he felt an overwhelming sense of pain.
"We were supposed to win this game, we had it won and we just came out and gave it up," Phillips said.
He felt pained that the Hurricanes' Atlantic Coast Conference title hopes likely had vanished, pained that the Yellow Jackets wide receivers burned the secondary for 195 yards and two touchdowns and pain from his broken right hand.
Phillips' range of motion was limited because he had to wear a cast after sustaining the injury during practice Wednesday, when he blocked a punt and got kicked in the hand by a teammate. He learned the severity of the injury after an X-ray Thursday and said he expects to have surgery as early as this week, but insisted he it would not cause him to miss any games.
Phillips led the Hurricanes defense with a team-high six tackles, including two for losses, but lamented that UM's secondary faltered and that he missed a potential first-quarter interception in the end zone because of his hand. He also was frustrated Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball spread UM's secondary by involving wide receivers Johnson and James Johnson, as well as fullback Mike Cox and tight end Michael Matthews.
"Everybody was trying to do their job," Phillips said. "It's just little mistakes, stuff with some guys, I'm not going to say forgot to do but got caught up doing someone else's job."
UM had early success against Ball, who completed just 3 of 16 passes in the first half, but then the senior hurt the Hurricanes.
Calvin Johnson, widely considered the top receiver in the nation, had five receptions for 68 yards but managed just 25 yards after snaring a 43-yard bomb from Ball in the first quarter. UM used some double and triple coverage of Johnson, but relied on Glen Sharpe, Brandon Meriweather as well as Kenny and Randy Phillips.
So if Johnson didn't do much damage after that, what happened in the fourth quarter?
"They were still trying to get the ball to Calvin, and trying to get the ball to the other receivers and we just made mistakes, we made mistakes and they kept driving," Kenny Phillips said. "We couldn't put them away but we figured we were going to win the game if they didn't score anymore."
During a key fourth-quarter drive, Ball used an array of short and long passes. Ball hit Johnson with a 4-yard completion and then faked a handoff and connected with Cox for a 21-yard completion. Cox was left open and dashed along the sideline before being tackled by safety Lovon Ponder.
Three plays later, Ball faked out UM defenders and found Matthews for a 16-yard reception. Then Ball threw a quick slant pass to Johnson, who drew a pass-interference penalty on Randy Phillips, and scored a 1-yard touchdown.
"They gave a team effort and they know teams look at Calvin Johnson, so they went away from him," Sharpe said. "They tried to go to him a lot but weren't really successful, so they utilized their other players."