In dramatic and straight up weird fashion, the Virginia Cavaliers topped the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets tonight with a 16-9 victory. The ‘Hoos advance to 3-4 on the season (1-3 in the ACC) and at the very least keep themselves alive for bowl eligibility. With the win, we’ve got four takeaways.
A win is a win
Screw the analysis of this performance for a moment and let’s just be grateful for this win. Off the backs of a three-game skid with losses to Syracuse, Duke, and Louisville, Tony Elliott’s team took care of the business on the road against a conference opponent. There’s still a path for UVA to qualify for a bowl game in the final give games of the season.
More than anything, avoiding a loss tonight was absolutely critical especially against a very meh Georgia Tech team without its starting quarterback for the majority of the contest. 3-4 looks loads and loads better than 2-5. Despite the problems that are absolutely still lingering for this squad, having more points than the opponent when the final whistle blows is what counts. And Virginia had more points than Georgia Tech at the conclusion of 60 minutes. So the Wahoo faithful can be happy with that and proceed to look ahead.
The UVA defense carries the team to a victory
Yes, starting Yellow Jacket quarterback Jeff Sims missed the vast majority of this game and UVA won this game against backup Zach Gibson. But, guess what? Virginia lost to a backup quarterback fewer than two weeks ago after the ‘Hoos had Louisville on the ropes.
Totaling eight (8!!!) sacks on the game and intercepting a Sims’ pass in the end-zone which took a Yellow Jacket score off the board, the UVA defense made plenty of plays tonight against GT. Whenever the offense would sputter, the defense would inevitably step up and prevent Georgia Tech from exploiting the disadvantageous scenarios it was forced into.
While college football counting sacks as negative rushing yards means that Tech’s total 55 yards rushing on 37 carries is deceiving, the UVA defense still only allowed 3.2 yards per rush for players not named Gibson in this outing. The Yellow Jackets couldn’t get anything going in the ground game and that was thanks to a big game game from Virginia’s defensive line and linebackers.
Despite being banged up this week, Nick Jackson made eight total tackles and had a pair of sacks in his return to his hometown of Atlanta. Chico Bennett Jr. got in on the action as well with another pair of sacks and seven tackles while James Jackson and Aaron Faumui were similarly impressive against the run.
The Wahoos’ defensive backs continue to arguably be the strength of this team. Jonas Sanker, Anthony Johnson, and Fentrell Cypress had two pass breakups EACH in a continued showing of just how good his secondary is. Coen King’s diving interception after Sanker’s first PBU was yet another highlight.
Brennan Armstrong is back to doing Brennan Armstrong things
Throwing for 255 yards (20-35) and a touchdown while running for another 91 and another score, Brennan Armstrong had arguably his best showing of the season tonight. Those passing numbers would’ve been far more impressive had it not been for drops (which I’ll get to in a second). But his accuracy was on point for most of the game.
While he did throw two interceptions, the first was more a result of a drop from Keytaon Thompson while the second did seem to be under-thrown. A fumbled handoff which he recovered could’ve made matters worse. Undoubtedly the negative plays are still a problem. But outside of those couple instances, Armstrong looked like his former self in many ways. Yes, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. But it was still encouraging to see him making tough throws that it felt like he’s been missing.
The offense at large continues to make too many mistakes
While the ups for the Wahoo offense were slightly more frequent than in past contests, the struggles with drops, penalties, and ball security. Lavel Davis Jr.’s dropped touchdown, Armstrong’s pair of picks, the offense’s six penalties for 40 yards, and Perris Jones’ fumble on the first offensive drive of the game all stick out. The blocked punt is more evidence of what needs to be cleaned up.
This should’ve been a three-score win for the ‘Hoos. That much is obvious. And the string of opponents which UVA closes the season out against will require far more complete performances from Tony Elliott and Des Kitchings’ offense.