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Cavaliers stun No. 12 Georgia Tech 24-21
Virginia rushes for 272 yards as Yellow Jackets suffer first loss
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Surrounded by family and 47,692 other friends, Virginia linebacker Steve Greer gave his wristband to a nearby child. First, though, he took out the card containing the Cavaliers’ plays.
“We have to play them again next year,” Greer explained.
The results of those plays were evident Saturday as the Wahoos knocked off No. 12 Georgia Tech 24-21, the team’s biggest victory under second-year coach Mike London.
If future Yellow Jackets’ foes want the secret formula, though, they’d better be prepared to put in the work. This was a victory several weeks in the making.
Plays installed in training camp were kept under wraps until Saturday. Video of each Georgia Tech game was distributed to players on a weekly basis. Perhaps most importantly, U.Va. kept a full practice schedule during its bye week, and went full contact against the scout team on those days.
On Thursday, the scout team ran 86 plays — about a game and a third — to prepare the Cavs. When the fourth quarter came Saturday, the defense answered the bell, allowing the Yellow Jackets to run just nine plays on their two drives. “I think they kind of count on defenses getting worn down,” Greer said. “Our offense did a great job of keeping us off the field, and that was a big part of it.”
On the 80th anniversary of Scott Stadium, the offense imitated how the game was played before the forward pass.
Quarterbacks Michael Rocco and David Watford continued their rotation, but that was mostly an aside to the performances of running backs Perry Jones and Kevin Parks. Jones, a junior, racked up 149 yards.
The unit was so dominant in the fourth quarter that fans were openly hostile to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor when he dared to put the ball in the air.
They must have forgotten that play action established an early advantage, as the Cavaliers faked the run on a pair of long throws to Tim Smith and Kris Burd for a 14-0 lead.
Rocco badly under threw a ball that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown to tie the game at 14, but bounced back on a drive that made the score 24-14 at halftime.
After halftime, Georgia Tech’s Tevin Washington ran 85 yards for a touchdown, but it was nullified by a block-in-the-back violation by the Yellow Jackets against Chase Minnifield, who was bumped but also did his part — futból style — to sell the contact. Nine minutes later, the Jackets had a touchdown, but it was their last sniff of the red zone.
The game played out similarly to London’s other big victory, against No. 22 Miami last year, which opened with a big lead and ended with the Cavs clinging to a narrow victory.
London told his players before playing Idaho that the bye week would be devoted to practices for Georgia Tech, and found himself personally satisfied their extra work paid off.
“When you reap the benefits of a victory like this, that, again, can be a signature moment. … I know in that locker room they finally get the feeling … the tipping point of, ‘Listen, let’s do it again. Let’s prepare again. Let’s execute again,’” the coach said. “To win a game, regardless of who it is, it’s contagious, and we hope it gets contagious enough where these guys start craving the win.”
By David A. Clarke Jr.
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