Jonathan Dwyer took the handoff on Georgia Tech's first snap, wrapped the ball tightly and burst untouched through Iowa's defensive line with a clear path to the end zone.
It was the first of many mistakes that turned Tuesday night's Orange Bowl into a ramblin' wreck for the Atlantic Coast Conference champions.
An abysmal first half and a horrible decision by quarterback Josh Nesbitt midway through the final quarter cost No. 9 Georgia Tech, which lost to No. 10 Iowa 24-14 in a game that once had so much statistical domination by the Hawkeyes, it simply defied logic.
"For all I know, that could have been the score that started us off and we could have won the game," Dwyer said. "You never know."
They never will, either.
"We were our own worst enemy," Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said.
Georgia Tech came in with the nation's No. 2 rushing offense, one that piled up 307.2 yards per game and 46 touchdowns. It has baffled most opponents with misdirection and confusion, not to mention stars in Dwyer and Nesbitt who have run by, past and over foes all season long.
Not against the Hawkeyes, they didn't.
"We know we can move the ball on any defense," Nesbitt said. "It was just a matter of going out and doing it. And you can't beat a good team when you're beating yourself."
The Yellow Jackets finished with 143 yards on 41 carries, their second-lowest total of the season. Georgia Tech doesn't come to Miami in the 2010 season, which might be a good thing _ its season low in rushing was 95 yards on the same field in a loss to the Hurricanes on Sept. 17. The Jackets rushed for at least 205 yards against every other foe this season.
All before halftime, the Yellow Jackets:
_ Punted six times, tying a season high for a game, after kicking the ball away only seven times in their previous five games.
_ Were outgained 257-32, a stunning stat for a team that had 33 plays of at least 32 yards entering the game.
_ Went three-and-out on each of their first four possessions, after leading the nation with only 14 of those during the season.
Cue those numbers about the Atlantic Coast Conference's woes in Bowl Championship Series games. The ACC is 1-9 in its last 10 BCS games, the lone win coming at the Orange Bowl a year ago by Virginia Tech over Cincinnati.
Georgia Tech and its vaunted triple-option offense was supposed to help that stat _ the Yellow Jackets were a 5 1/2-point favorite at kickoff.
But this one was all Iowa from the get-go, and by the time Georgia Tech (11-3) warmed up in the coldest Orange Bowl ever _ 49 degrees at kickoff _ it was too late.
"I don't know that the confidence was shaken," Johnson said of the slow start. "I think it's disappointing because we haven't played very many games like that."
Iowa had a month to prepare for something it hadn't seen, and it was ready. By the time Georgia Tech had its initial first down, the second quarter was half over.
And despite all the mistakes, all the failed opportunities, all the inability to get anything going against Iowa (11-2), the Yellow Jackets still had two late chances to tie the game or take the lead.
They got nothing going with either.
The first came with 8 1/2 minutes left, when Georgia Tech started on its own 10 after an Iowa punt. Nesbitt's pass from his own goal line was intercepted by A.J. Edds, but the Yellow Jackets escaped. A fake field goal that didn't work gave Georgia Tech the ball back at the 12, still down by only three.
"We had chances," Nesbitt said.
So the Yellow Jackets started the ensuing drive by giving the ball to their Mr. Everything, Dwyer, with hopes of getting something started. He lost 11 yards, backing Georgia Tech to its 1, and the Yellow Jackets kicked the ball away yet again.
That set up the final blow, Brandon Wegher's 32-yard clinching touchdown run for Iowa with 1:56 left.
With that, the triple option was out of options. And out of time.
"Most people doubted us throughout the whole season," said Dwyer, who indicated that the loss could sway him toward returning to school in 2010. "We just couldn't make plays happen today. We know, we proved everybody wrong, so I'm fine. It's all right. We lost the game. It's just a game. I hate losing, it's just the competitor in me, but this season is something I'll never forget."