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Miami, Georgia Tech turn to young backup quarterbacks

ATLANTA — Only two weeks ago, Saturday's Miami-Georgia Tech game looked like an attractive matchup of two of the Atlantic Coast Conference's most accomplished quarterbacks.

Instead, two of the league's least experienced quarterbacks are starting for Miami's Jacory Harris and Georgia Tech's Joshua Nesbitt.

Harris will miss his second straight game since suffering a concussion on Oct. 30 at Virginia. Freshman Stephen Morris, who led the Hurricanes to a 26-20 comeback win over Maryland last week, will make his second start.

Nesbitt will miss the rest of the regular season after suffering a broken right forearm in last week's loss at Virginia Tech. Sophomore Tevin Washington will make his first start.

The injuries to the quarterbacks leave huge voids on each team.

Nesbitt has rushed for the most yards and touchdowns of any quarterback in ACC history. His average of 81.9 yards rushing this season ranks first among quarterbacks and fifth among all players in the league.

Harris is second on Miami's career records with 50 touchdown passes, more than Vinny Testeverde, Steve Walsh, Gino Torretta and Bernie Kosar.

Harris has 1,646 yards passing with 14 touchdowns this season.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said he first thought his Yellow Jackets might be catching a break by not having to face Harris. Then Johnson saw Morris pass for 286 yards against Maryland.

"I think this quarterback is really going to be a good player," said Johnson of Morris. "People might say 'Wow, you've got a backup quarterback' and then you watch him play and think 'Man, we might not have got the best out of that bargain.'"

With Morris leading the way, Miami set a season high with 504 total yards. He threw for one touchdown and two interceptions.

"The first game he started they had over 500 yards of offense," Johnson said. "He threw a couple interceptions but he's got a big arm and he's mobile and he can do some things. He was a very highly recruited kid. He was one of the top quarterback recruits in the country."

Washington had 11 carries for 45 yards and completed 2 of 7 passes for 80 yards after replacing Nesbitt at Virginia Tech. His final pass was intercepted in the end zone.

Miami coach Randy Shannon said Johnson's triple option offense won't change with the switch to Washington.

"He's not going to change," Shannon said of Johnson. "You can forget about that. That's what he knows. You watch the tape against Virginia Tech, he hasn't changed. It's the same offense."

Washington spent spring practice as Georgia Tech's No. 1 quarterback when Nesbitt was recovering from offseason ankle surgery. Washington ran for three touchdowns in the spring game and showed his skills as a runner and passer against Virginia Tech.

"He ran the offense this spring pretty much seamlessly," said receiver Tyler Melton, who said he is not worried about Washington's composure in his first start.

"Especially the way he stepped in at Virginia Tech with so much confidence, I'm really not concerned about him being shy or intimidated or anything like that."

Washington said he expects to lean on advice from Nesbitt during the game.

"He just gave me his blessing and told me to stay hungry and be ready for whatever," Washington said.

"Josh is a leader so I know he'll be there Saturday. He'll be there to help me out and give me some pointers. He'll be there. That's just the kind of guy Josh is."

Johnson said it's too late in the season to make dramatic changes in the run-first offense for Washington.

"It's not like we've got a huge offensive line and we can say 'OK, we're going to put it in their hands.' Or we've got two guys and we're going to put it in their hands or whatever. I think you just have to go and play and I've got confidence he can do what we need to do to win the game."

Nesbitt completed only 37.1 percent of his passes (39 of 105) for 674 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. He had 737 yards rushing with 10 touchdowns.

Washington said he doesn't feel like a starter yet.

"It won't feel like it until Saturday," he said. "I guess when I get out there I'll feel like I'm the starter."

Nesbitt hopes to return for a bowl game. Harris could return for Miami's Nov. 20 game against Virginia Tech.

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