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Virginia Overcomes Slow Start and Late Drama to Defeat Georgia Tech 48-40

The Cavaliers took down the Yellow Jackets on Saturday night for their fourth-straight ACC victory

If you took an isolated look at the first ten minutes and the last ten minutes of the game, you would assume Virginia had lost to Georgia Tech by a wide margin, as the Yellow Jackets outscored the Cavaliers by a combined 30-7 margin over those two time periods.

Fortunately, after Georgia Tech scored the game’s first 14 points, Virginia answered with a 48-13 run that spanned from the end of the first quarter well into the fourth quarter and seemingly put Virginia in control of the game.

A touchdown pass from Armstrong to Ra’Shaun Henry put UVA up 48-27 with less than four minutes left in the game and appeared to be the nail in the coffin.

Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims had other plans, throwing a 37-yard touchdown pass to Kalani Norris. The Yellow Jackets then recovered an onside kick with a little over a minute left to make things even more interesting. But when Georgia Tech scored on a touchdown pass from Sims to Kyric McGowan to make it 48-40 with 22 seconds left, an uncomfortable sense of worry became palpable among the remaining fans at Scott Stadium.

Almost unbelievably, the Yellow Jackets successfully recovered another onside kick and suddenly, the Cavalier defense needed to come up with a stop or face the possibility of overtime.

Joey Blount knocked down Sims’ last-second pass attempt into the end zone as time expired and Virginia held on for a 48-40 victory on Saturday night at Scott Stadium. 

It was far from an ideal start for the Cavaliers on either side of the ball. Georgia Tech scored touchdowns on its first two drives and UVA went three-and-out on its first possession.

It took only five plays and 100 seconds for the Yellow Jackets to get on the board as Jeff Simms threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Kyric McGowan. After the Cavaliers sputtered on offense, Georgia Tech drove right back down the field. The Hoos thought they had come up with a big stop as Joey Blount intercepted Jeff Sims in the end zone and ran the ball out to midfield. But, the play was called back as Noah Taylor made contact with Sims’ helmet and was flagged for roughing the passer. Two plays later, Georgia Tech scored on a three-yard touchdown run up the middle by Dontae Smith to make it 14-0.

Virginia responded well on its next possession, driving 75 yards in nine plays and scoring a one-yard touchdown on a Brennan Armstrong pass to Billy Kemp in the flat to get the Hoos on the board. UVA flexed its offensive versatility on that first scoring drive. Armstrong found three different receivers on the drive and ran twice for 24 yards. Keytaon Thompson also ran for 12 yards after taking a direct snap and then hauled in a catch to set up the Kemp touchdown.

Georgia Tech threatened to put another touchdown on the board as the Yellow Jackets drove inside the UVA red zone. But, McGowan dropped an open pass on third down and Georgia Tech settled for a Brent Cimaglia 26-yard field goal.

After the field goal extended Georgia Tech’s lead to 16-7, Virginia answered with a 20-0 run that lasted into the third quarter.

On the ensuing UVA drive, Armstrong found a hole on a designed run and took it 45 yards, the longest rush by a Virginia player this season. Two plays later, Armstrong threw a jump ball into the back right corner of the end zone to Dontayvion Wicks, who elevated above two Yellow Jacket defenders and came down with the ball for a highlight-reel touchdown. 

Brennan Armstrong threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 99 yards and another two scores. Armstrong surpassed 3,000 passing yards for the season in the game, becoming the third UVA quarterback to have 3,000 passing yards in a single season. He totaled 495 yards of total offense and six total touchdowns.

After Joey Blount had an interception called back earlier, he picked off Jeff Sims again, stepping in front of a deep pass near the UVA goal line to put an end to Georgia Tech’s drive. It was Blount’s 8th career interception.

48 seconds later, Dontayvion Wicks was standing in the end zone again after breaking a tackle to turn a short pass from Brennan Armstrong into a 77-yard touchdown reception, outrunning everyone for UVA’s longest passing play of the season. 

Wicks had five receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns in just the first half.

The Virginia defense forced Georgia Tech to punt on its next drive as the Yellow Jackets went three-and-out. The Hoos got the ball back and a 28-yard completion from Armstrong to Wicks set up a Brendan Farrell field goal to make it 24-16 heading into halftime.

The second half began with Georgia Tech sacking Brennan Armstrong for a loss of 14 yards. The Cavaliers rebounded well as Armstrong threw to Keytaon Thompson for a 23-yard gain to convert on third-and-17. Armstrong went to Thompson twice more on the drive for completions of 14 and 9 yards and then Jelani Woods hauled in his first catch of the day for a 19 yard pickup. The drive stalled inside the Georgia Tech 10-yard line and the Cavaliers settled for a 26-yard Brendan Farrell field goal to make it 27-16.

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Keytaon Thompson, who celebrated his birthday on Saturday, had nine receptions for 89 yards and seven carries for 65 rushing yards and had the honor of breaking the rock following the game. 

"Keytaon is doing an amazing job and it seems like every time he gets the ball, positive things happen," UVA head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. 

The Yellow Jackets quickly put an end to UVA’s 20-0 run on their next possession. On the second play of the drive, Jahmyr Gibbs burst through the UVA defense for a 71-yard touchdown run. Georgia Tech converted the two-point attempt to draw back within three points at 27-24.

With the Yellow Jackets right on their heels, the Hoos crucially responded with back-to-back scores on touchdown runs by Brennan Armstrong on the next two drives.

After Armstrong found Jelani Woods for a 20-yard gain into Georgia Tech territory, Billy Kemp was hit after a reception by Georgia Tech’s Akelo Stone, who was flagged for a late hit and targeting and was ejected from the game. The penalty moved the ball to the Georgia Tech 21-yard line and Armstrong eventually punctuated the drive with a four-yard run, slashing to the right side for a touchdown to put UVA back up by 10.

The Virginia defense forced Georgia Tech to punt, giving the ball right back to the Cavaliers. Somehow, the Yellow Jackets left massive tight end Jelani Woods wide open on the left sideline and Armstrong found him for a 24-yard gain. On the next play, Armstrong ran for a touchdown again, this time from 14 yards out to make it 41-24.

Georgia Tech made it a two-possession game with a field goal, but the Cavaliers responded by perfectly executing a long scoring drive, going 96 yards and taking 5:09 off the clock. Armstrong passed to Ra’Shaun Henry in the left corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown to put the Hoos up 48-27 with less than four minutes remaining.

Virginia put up 636 yards of total offense, including 240 rushing yards and 396 passing yards. The Hoos have scored 48 points in each of their last two games. 

"It starts with the coaching and our offensive staff," Mendenhall said of UVA's offensive production. "Robert Anae and Jason Beck and our offensive staff is doing a really good job. Then it goes to Brennan (Armstrong) at the quarterback spot. Every play goes through him. Then between Dontayvion (Wicks) and Ra'Shaun (Henry) and Jelani (Woods) and KT (Keytaon Thompson) and Billy (Kemp) and Wayne (Taulapapa) and Devin Darrington, there's lots of production happening out there." 

It seemed the Hoos were well on their way to securing a win over a Coastal rival by a sizable margin, but the Yellow Jackets were not quite ready to go back to Atlanta.

Sims threw a pair of touchdowns and Georgia Tech recovered back-to-back onside kicks to set up a dramatic ending that seemed very unlikely just a few minutes earlier.

Fortunately, Jeff Sims' pass from the UVA 31-yard line was knocked down in the end zone by Joey Blount on the final play of the game and the Cavaliers came away with the victory.

Virginia has now won four-straight ACC games for the first time since 2011. The Hoos improve to 4-2 in ACC play and 6-2 overall and are officially bowl eligible.

Up next, the Cavaliers head west for a matchup at BYU next Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 10:15pm, ET. 

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