You may have to look long and hard to find a victory that disappointed Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson as much as Saturday’s 31-17 win over Virginia.
Johnson could say little nice about the win, which came on Senior Day on a chilly, windy afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Special teams? Adequate at best.
“I’m just disappointed in the way we played,” Johnson said. “I thought we turned a corner (after last week’s win at Virginia Tech). We’d been playing better offensively and we got all of our guys back today.”
The offense managed 321 total yards, 199 of it on the ground, but struggled to put drives together. The defense allowed 409 yards and allowed the Cavs to keep the ball for 38:37 minutes.
“Defensively, while we did a decent job of not giving up points, they missed a couple field goals and we were better on third downs in the second half. But just the time of possession …”
The Yellow Jackets (7-4, 4-4 ACC) trailed 10-7 at halftime before scoring on three straight possessions — a 54-yard pass from Justin Thomas to running back Clinton Lynch, a 60-yard run by Qua Searcy and a 41-yard field goal from Harrison Butker.
The turning point may have come when Georgia Tech failed to convert a fourth-and-1 midway in the third quarter, giving Virginia the ball at the 25. The defense stiffened and forced Virginia to try a field goal, which it missed. Georgia Tech responded with the go-ahead touchdown.
“Maybe it woke everybody up, but the defense did a great job on that series,” Johnson said. “They’ve struggled all year with their field goal kicker.”
Thomas only threw 10 passes and completed five for 122 yards and one touchdown. He lost another touchdown when Brad Stewart dropped a deep ball.
Marshall carried 16 times for 127 yards and one touchdown, a 67-yarder. Marshall has rushed for 270 yards in the last two games, which he has started in place of the suspended Dedrick Mills.
All three of Georgia Tech’s touchdowns were at least 50 yards in length. The Yellow Jackets have had 15 plays this season of 50-plus yards and 11 have gone for a touchdown.
Virginia dominated the time of possession, keeping the ball 38:27. That may help explain why Georgia Tech ran only 41 plays, the fewest in Johnson’s nine seasons and tied for second for the fewest in school history.
“I was disappointed in the way we played,” Johnson said. “Clearly, as coaches, we need to do a better job getting ready to play.”
Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said, “One of my passions is defending the option and the kids did a really nice job. They did a nice job giving us a chance to have the ball longer, get out of third downs and give our offense opportunities to score enough points to win.”
Georgia Tech 31, Virginia 17
UVA—Hamm 4 run (Hayward kick), 11:55
GT—M.Marshall 67 run (Butker kick), 10:20
UVA—FG Hayward 30, 4:09
GT—Lynch 54 pass from Thomas (Butker kick), 4:22
GT—Searcy 60 run (Butker kick), 1:33
GT—FG Butker 41, 13:49
UVA—Santoro 1 pass from Johns (Hayward kick), 7:18
GT—Lan.Austin 24 interception return (Butker kick), 4:18
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Virginia, Mizzell 24-131, Reid 12-63, Hamm 1-4, Johns 5-(minus 9). Georgia Tech, M.Marshall 16-127, Searcy 3-65, Lynch 1-11, Willis 1-5, Jordan 1-0, Thomas 9-(minus 9).
PASSING—Virginia, Dubois 0-1-0-0, Johns 27-44-3-220, (Team) 0-1-0-0. Georgia Tech, Thomas 5-10-0-122.
RECEIVING—Virginia, Dowling 9-68, Mizzell 6-45, Zaccheaus 4-18, K.Johnson 3-57, Levrone 2-20, Santoro 2-7, B.Marshall 1-5. Georgia Tech, Lynch 3-85, Willis 1-19, Jeune 1-18.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Virginia, Hayward 31, Hayward 42.