Virginia Loses a Heartbreaker to Georgia Tech

Virginia might have ended up with the same old result, but these are not the “same old ‘Hoos”. 

You know…the ‘Hoos of the pre and post-George Welsh era. The Hoos that hit the opposing QB late turning victories into agonizing defeats. The ‘Hoos that blow all their timeouts because they can’t get the right players on the field. The ‘Hoos that break the huddle after a personnel timeout with 12 players on the field. The ‘Hoos defense that spawned the sentiment..3rd and long, they’ve got us right where they want us…before giving up a plethora of improbable first downs. 

Yes, Virginia lost a road game to Georgia Tech, but this is not the self-destructing Virginia team of Al Groh or Mike London. These are not the “same old ‘Hoos”.

Playing Georgia Tech is always hard. Love or hate Paul Johnson, he has the fourth most wins among active coaches, for good reason. To put Johnson’s success in perspective UVa fans will appreciate, Paul Johnson, trails George Welsh for career wins by 4 and will pass Virginia’s legendary coach early next season. Teams hate playing Ga Tech. Their blocking schemes are maddening, their offense full of misdirection, and they win more often than they lose. It’s like being asked to play golf left-handed for one round a year. Nothing is as it should be, but we are still playing golf. 

A stout defensive front is critical for success against Ga Tech. Coming into the game, Virginia’s defense was as banged up as it had been all season with multiple season-ending injuries along Virginia’s already thin front line. Making a prognostication even less rosy, Ga Tech was on a roll, winning five of their last six games. The Yellow Jackets had obliterated their prior two opponents and led the nation in rushing yards per game by a wide margin. This game had “ugly” written all over it for Virginia fans. 

The result was indeed ugly, but how Virginia got there wasn’t. I submit but for one fluke play where a terrible punt took a 60-degree bounce in the wrong direction causing an improbable turnover, Virginia wins this game. That was it. The game changer, a complete outlier that 999 times out of 1,000 goes Virginia’s way. Instead of getting the ball at midfield after a 3-and-out by Virginia’s defense, Ga Tech got the ball back at midfield and scored a go-ahead touchdown. If Virginia gets a normal bounce on the punt, UVa wins.

Despite the horrid bounce on a terrible punt, Virginia still could have won this game. As has been the norm for this season, Virginia doesn’t give up. After kicking a go-ahead field goal the Yellow Jackets were jumping around like they won the lottery but there were 68 seconds left to play. 66 seconds later, Virginia had tied the game. That is not “same old ‘Hoos”.

I take issue with some of the play calling at the end regulation as well as during the overtime period. Virginia’s passing game had been effective all game. Why abandon it for a trick play run or a QB scramble with the game on the line? Bryce Perkins completed 21 of 26 passes on the day. I understand trying to be unpredictable and going against the grain from time to time, but when your QB has an 81% completion percentage on the day, why call consecutive plays that don’t take advantage of what had worked all day. Olamide Zaccheaus, Hasise Dubois, and Terrell Jana had produced positive yards all game. Why Virginia didn’t throw their way with the game on the line is a mystery to me.

I am not going to repeat any of the ugly things I have read online about offensive coordinator Robert Anae, but I sure did dislike his play calling with the game on the line. It seems to me the Virginia players deserved better than from their leadership – hopefully, lesson learned. 

While Brian Delaney missed a makeable field goal in overtime, Delaney is not the reason Virginia lost. Sometimes a routine shot goes awry. If you’ve ever stood over a routine 140 yard 8-iron into a green only to yank it into the lake, you know what I mean. Delaney just missed it. Been there, done that. While some might say that “awry’ is the natural state of my golf game, I’ve hit the inexplicable snap hook pull to lose a match…more than once.

The real story of the Virginia Georgia Tech game is not that Virginia missed a field goal in overtime to lose. The real story is that Virginia fought like hell, with a depleted defensive line that held Ga Tech 100 yards under their rushing average and put itself in a position to win a game when few had given them a puncher’s chance. 

No one has been more frustrated with Virginia football loses over the past 17 years than me. The difference this year is that I never feel like Virginia is out of the game and when they lose I am not mad, but rather feel horrible for the kids on the team who have worked so hard to bring Virginia football back to respectability. Virginia could have pulled a big upset against Georgia Tech, but a bounce didn’t go their way and some odd play calling with the game on the line kept the Cavaliers out of the winner’s circle. 

Old ‘Hoos might let this game carry over into the season finale in Blacksburg. These are not the same old ‘Hoos. 

Beat Tech.

Follow David on Twitter @DMRayner.