Game 549: Virginia drops Georgia Tech, 40-36
Charlottesville, VA – Despite numerous dropped passes by the Virginia receivers in the first half and two quick Georgia Tech scores to start the third period for a 15-point lead, the Cavaliers, aka the Wahoos, came back twice from behind late to finally defeat the Ramblin’ Wrecks, aka Yellow Jackets, with 1:22 left to win this ACC Coastal confrontation, 40-36. This game featured a little of everything – from a TD on a kick-off return, a pick-six, a safety, two-point conversions, lead changes, lightning-quick scores, effective punts, and long scoring plays on the ground and through the air. The game started off slowly in the first half as UVA receivers dropped at least seven clearly catchable passes despite the rainy conditions. So much for wearing fashionable gloves. Take them off!
With this win, the Cavaliers improved to 6-3, 3-2 while Tech fell to 4-4, 3-3. On a very rainy day, Collegefootballfan.com along with our Guest Game Analysts (GGAs) Brian Donnelly (Towson) and Eric Koreivo (USN, PO 2/c) lucked out with “discount” tickets under cover protecting us from steady to driving rains that continued throughout the game in central Virginia. The rain did not prevent us from tailgating beforehand, however. Dogfish Head brand brews, Brian’s Old Bay wings specialty, and Philly cheesesteaks imported from South Jersey heated upon the grill primed us for today’s game. Game 549 was our first game ever at Scott Stadium, home of the Wahoos. We enjoyed having Eric come up from his command in Little Creek, Virginia for the weekend. He hadn’t gotten a chance to attend a game this season until now, and he’s not sure if he’ll get to another before his deployment in 2018. At least the one game he made it to turned out to be entertaining.
Slow start, exciting end to first half
Georgia Tech enjoyed a 14-13 lead at the half, but it could have been a significantly different story had UVA receivers not suffered a severe case of the “dropsies” over the course of three series. Even worse, HB Olamide Zaccheaus (nine caches 98 yards) fumbled the football on his own 14 after which GT QB TaQuon Marshall (6 for 22, 129 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs; 29 carries for 143 yards rushing, 2 TDs) dove over from the one for a short-lived 14-6 lead. On the ensuing kick-off, UVA’s Joe Reed slipped a tackler on the right, raced across field, dodged a tackler along the left sideline, and 92 yards later had the Cavs back within one again.
Score, team , score
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, if you count extra point conversions and not include the last kickoff, Marshall scored on the fifth play in a row as he bolted over the right side from his 22 for a 78-yard touchdown run. Like lightning which didn’t come from the sky on this rainy day, on the next play from scrimmage, Cav QB Kurt Benkert (21 of 43, 260 yards, 3 TDS, 1 INT), the passer of many dropped passes got picked by LB Bruce Jordan-Swilling who ran it back 27 yards for another GT TD to make the score 28-13. It seemed like the Yellow Jackets were about to ramble away with this game. “Not so fast, my friend” comes that indomitable phrase to mind from college football sage Lee Corso.
Just as quickly as the Ramblin’ Wrecks buzzed off to a sudden 28-13 lead, the Wahoos came aback just as strong in the same period. Benkert led the Cavs starting from his 22 on a scoring drive capped by his 34-yard TD pass to Andre LeVrone. On GT’s next series, All-American FS candidate Quinn Blanding intercepted Marshall to set the Wahoos up at Tech’s 30. Benkert spiraled a pass 28 yards to Doni Dowling in the right corner of the end zone to lead the offensive charge back to within one. Second-year HC Bronco Mendenhall, formerly HC at BYU, opted for a two-point conversion, and Benkert zipped it to Zaccheaus who held on to it to tie the game at 28-all.
Punt, Wahoos, punt!
Late in the third and early in the fourth, the two teams traded punts. UVA P Lester Coleman kept Tech deep in their territory. His first of 40 yards put Tech back at the two before a three and out. He boomed the next from his 23 for 63 yards that rolled out at GT’s 14. A sack by LB Chris Peace forced another Tech punt from there and the Cavs tool over at the Jackets’ 43. UVA finally got its first lead off that drive, 31-28, on Mejia’s 28-yard FG.
Tech looked to come back quickly as Marshall heaved a long bomb to his receiver who looked wide open down the middle. Eric noted that his receiver had to slow up and even come back for it, and because Marshall put a lot of air under it, FS Brenton Nelson swooped in to make the interception. The Cavs went three and out, but once again, Coleman’s leg was an effective offensive weapon. He boomed another spiral into the air for 58-yard punt that hopped sideways just once, and the ball died at Georgia Tech’s three. On the next snap, LB Jordan Mack applied pressure and the ball fell loose from Marshall’s hands into the end zone. He pounced on it to avoid a Wahoo touchdown, but the Cavs came away with two more points for 33-28 lead.
Tech basically did away with the triple option at this stage to mount a comeback after holding the Cavs to two yards before forcing a punt. Coleman once again put them deep back at their ten with 7:10 remaining. Advancing to Virginia’s 33, Marshall connected with a wide-open Ricky Jeune over the middle at 3:10 to retake the lead. For the two-point try to go up by three, Marshall race left and just hooked the ball around the pylon as he dove to give Tech the lead, 36-33. The Wahoos took the kick out to their 36. The dropsies epidemic amongst the orange and blue seemed to be over. On three of four plays, Benkert completed three passes and added five more yards with a run to get his team to the 27. With 1:22 left, Benkert lofted a pass toward the end zone down the left sideline where LeVrone caught the ball for a nice over-the-should catch as he crossed the goal line.
UVA was back on top, 40-36. Tech had three TOs left and used them over a nine-play drive to their 24 down to UVA’s 27 where Chris Peace broke up a pass on fourth down to take back over on downs. One play in the victory formation and the Cavs are on their way to a bowl game. It was another greet game to enjoy in Game 549, our 17th of this great 2017 season. The season winds down, but we have nine more and possibly a tenth to see as our fantastic season races to the end.
Virginia heads to Louisville (5-4, 2-4) next week whom we saw lose to Wake Forest last, 42-32. GT hosts No. 17 Virginia Tech who fell to undefeated Miami last Saturday. Collegefootballfan.com goes disappointingly to State College since the Nittany Lions are out of the CFP picture now with consecutive losses to Ohio State by one and to Michigan State by three on a last second FG, 27-24. They host surprising Rutgers with a 4-5 record in our 550th game since 1979.
Points After Tailgating: Game 549
UVA ILB Micah Kiser led all tacklers with 18 in this game.
Tech totaled only 220 yards on the ground while UVA could tally only 97.
We curtailed any post-game parking lot celebrations in the parking lot due to continuing rain and darkness. Instead we found BJ’s Micro-brewery. A chain with five brewing locations, but not this one in Charlottesville.