Virginia scored in the 30s for the third successive game, largely on the strength of freshman Antonio Rice's third big rushing output in that span, but Georgia Tech defeated the Cavaliers today, 38-32. So it was Tech's sophomore tailback Robert Lavette who had the reporters crowding around for postgame comment.
"After that fumble, I was determined to redeem myself," Lavette said, remembering his first carry. The turnover set up a Virginia field goal.
Rice, from McKinley High in Washington, D.C., was good for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Lavette scored four touchdowns and totaled 136 yards on 29 attempts as the Yellow Jackets won the nonconference meeting of Atlantic Coast Conference schools.
Lavette went over on runs of 12, one and eight yards in the first half as Tech ran up a 24-10 lead, and added a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. The four touchdowns gave Lavette his school's single-season record for touchdowns, 15, bettering the 12 scored in 1966 by Lenny Snow.
"I set a goal before the year of scoring 15 touchdowns and getting 1,000 yards rushing," Lavette said in the Tech locker room. "I'm very happy to have reached that goal and hope to break it in the next two games. My next goal is the 1,000 yards."
With his 136 yards on the ground today, Lavette has 866 for the season with games left against Wake Forest and Georgia. Virginia's Rice rushed for 129 yards against Wake Forest two weeks ago, 153 against VMI last week and now has a chance at 1,000, too, having 674 yards for the year, with three games left.
Quarterback Jim Bob Taylor (10 of 14 passing, 127 yards; nine runs, 63 yards) set up three of Lavette's touchdowns with two pass completions and a 35-yard run, and scored Tech's fifth touchdown on an 11-yard run. That pulled the Yellow Jackets from 31-24 to 38-24, the Cavaliers getting their final touchdown with 35 seconds to play.
"When they had to do it, they did it," said Virginia Coach George Welsh, his team's two-game winning streak over. "We couldn't stop them, and you're not going to win, at least we aren't, if you can't stop them. You know, we don't have an offense to score 50."
But even with first-string quarterback Wayne Schuchts nursing a cracked rib, and backup Mike Eck also hurt, the Cavaliers broke 30. Welsh went with Gordie Whitehead, just coming off injuries himself, and Whitehead responded by completing 15 of 26 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown. Fourth-stringer Doug Porter passed to Billy Griggs for the final score, completing an 84-yard drive in 14 plays.
Wayne Morrison of Virginia, now 2-6 to Tech's 5-4, kicked the 35-yard field goal that opened the scoring after Charles McDaniel recovered Lavette's fumble on the Yellow Jacket 33. After Lavette's 12-yard touchdown run, Whitehead brought Virginia a 10-7 first-quarter lead with an 18-yard scoring pass to tight end Kevin Riccio.
Georgia Tech replied with Rob Rice's 48-yard field goal opening the second quarter and Lavette's two touchdowns that period. On the Cavaliers' first possession of the second half, Antonio Rice broke a 50-yard run to the Tech two, the team's longest from scrimmage this year. Then he plunged over to bring his team within 24-17.
Taylor then guided the Yellow Jackets on a 75-yard scoring drive, scrambling for 25 yards and completing a key third-and-22 pass for 23 yards to tight end Gary Wilkins to Virginia's 12. Next play, Lavette went around left end for the touchdown.
Whitehead had five straight completions in the first Virginia touchdown drive for 61 yards, ended by his 18-yard strike to Riccio.