Georgia Tech 23, Virginia 15
Virginia's second-half comebacks and six-game winning streak came to an end in the same breath today.
Down by 23 points to Georgia Tech at halftime, the Cavaliers rallied but fell short. The Yellow Jackets did not need a second-half score as they thwarted Virginia's final drive with an interception in a 23-15 victory at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
"I don't want too much credit for valiant [comebacks]," Virginia Coach Al Groh said. "We didn't play well in key points and we paid the price for it."
With 2 minutes 15 seconds remaining, the Cavaliers took possession at their 14. After six completions and with 1:25 left and no timeouts, the Cavaliers faced third and one from the Georgia Tech 49.
Quarterback Matt Schaub (41 of 58 for 372 yards, one touchdown and one interception) threw deep down the left sideline, but wide receiver Billy McMullen broke off his route and Georgia Tech's Jeremy Muyres intercepted the pass at his team's 14 to secure the win.
"The ball went where it was designed to go," Groh said.
Said McMullen: "I read the coverage wrong."
Last week, the Cavaliers (6-3, 4-2 ACC) trailed 21-0 at halftime to North Carolina but won, 37-27. Virginia also trailed Wake Forest by 17 in the third quarter on Sept. 28 and came back to win, 38-34.
The difference, Groh said, was that Virginia made correctable mistakes in the other games but simply played poorly and Georgia Tech played well in the first half.
Entering with six consecutive victories, the Cavaliers hoped to match a seven-game winning streak from 1990 when they were briefly ranked No. 1.
Georgia Tech ended that run 12 years ago and it ended the run today. The Yellow Jackets (5-3, 2-3) entered the game having lost two straight. They lost to Wake Forest, 24-21, and were pummeled by Maryland, 34-10.
But they got off to a flawless start. The Yellow Jackets scored on five of their six first-half possessions and stopped themselves the only other, as three penalties and a dropped pass caused them to punt. Georgia Tech, which entered averaging 388 yards per game, compiled 297 in the first half.
A.J. Suggs completed 26 of 41 passes for 220 yards and one touchdown, and P.J. Daniels rushed for 95 yards and a score on 21 carries for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 211 yards and finished with 431.
Meantime, Virginia's offense sputtered. On their opening drive, the Cavaliers could not convert a third-and-one situation. Down 13-0 in the second quarter, Wali Lundy was stopped on an option pitch on fourth and two for no gain at the Yellow Jackets 23 by cornerback Cory Collins.
Two other key plays affected the complexion of the game. On its second possession, Virginia's kicker, Kurt Smith, missed a 25-yard field goal wide right. It was Smith's third miss in his last four kicks, one of which was an extra point.
From there, Groh elected to go for it on fourth downs when deep in Georgia Tech territory.
"I try not to have a knee-jerk reaction, but all I can do is go with what I see," he said. "From that point, in those situations I thought I'd run a play that utilizes 11 players instead of one."
Late in the fourth quarter, on Virginia's second touchdown drive, the Cavaliers threw an incompletion, yet the clock continued to run. After the following play, the officials huddled to discuss the situation but decided not to put more time on the clock.
Groh said if Virginia had what he believed to be an extra 35 seconds, he would not have used all of his timeouts on Georgia Tech's second-to-last drive of the game.