Atlanta -- Last week was a great step toward turning the football season around for Georgia Tech. No penalties, no turnovers and no problems on offense or defense. The result was a decisive win, the end of a three-game losing streak and renewed enthusiasm throughout the program.
But the next step in this turnaround must take place Saturday on the road against Virginia. A similar effort will likely yield similar results against the downtrodden Cavs. A stumble, however, would quickly wipe out the good feelings created by last week's impressive win.
"I was proud of our team last week," Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "The effort and concentration levels were much better. We tried to put an emphasis on penalties, turnovers and all of the things that get you beat and I thought our guys did a good job handling that in the game.
"Having said that, it's like I say every week that one's over with now so you move on and we are getting ready to go up to Charlottesville to play a Virginia team that has its back against the wall."
The game features two promising young quarterbacks: Virginia's David Watford and Georgia Tech's Vad Lee, a pair of sophomores with big-play ability.
Watford (6-2, 200) appeared as a reserve in 10 games as a true freshman in 2011 and was redshirted for 2012. Watford is a two-way threat, but more so as a passer. He's rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns and has completed 58.5 percent of his throws for 1,339 yards and five touchdowns, with eight interceptions. Watford has thrown for 263 yards in each of the last two games.
Lee has rushed for 354 yards and six touchdowns and completed 44.4 percent for 846 yards and eight touchdowns, with five interceptions. He threw only three times a week ago, completing all of them. One of the passes went for a touchdown, breaking a three-game streak without a touchdown pass.
The plan remains for backup Justin Thomas to play a relief role at quarterback. He played one thee-and-out series in the first half, but was effective in the second half when given a chance once the game got out of hand. Johnson said both quarterbacks did well with their game management roles last week.
Tech will also need to slow down Virginia back Kevin Parks, who has rushed for 560 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 25 passes for 270 yards and one touchdown. Parks ran for 63 yards and caught three passes for 34 yards against Tech last year.
"Like most really good backs, he's god great balance and he breaks tackles," Johnson said. "I don't know that he's a burner, but he's fast enough. He's played against us the last three or four years and we've got a lot of respect for him."
Virginia will also benefit from having game-breaking freshman Taquan Mizzell back at full speed. Mizzell missed two games and was limited last week because of a badly sprained ankle. Before the season he as touted as potentially having the same impact as Duke Johnson did his freshman year at Miami.
Both teams prefer to run the ball. Tech has run the ball 404 times and Virginia has run it 306 times, ranking them No. 1 and No. 2 in the ACC. Tech's results have been better. The Yellow Jackets average 304.4 yards on the ground, compared to 176.1 yards for the Cavs.
"We really need to limit them running the football," Johnson said. "If we can do that and maybe get a couple of turnovers, that's always a positive."
Virginia ranks at the bottom of the league in turnover margin at minus-5. The Cavs have turned the ball over 15 times and forced 10 turnovers. Georgia Tech is in the middle of the pack with a plus-1 margin.
"One of the things we've taken a look at is they're No. 2 in the country in time of possession and they're scoring 36 points a game," Virginia coach Mike London said. "On the other side, we're No. 5 in time of possession, but we're scoring like 22 points a game. If we're going to hang onto the ball, we need to score points ourselves and put ourselves in an opportunity to be competitive in the game."