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Virginia steps up, defeats Georgia Tech 27-21

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Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers outplayed Georgia Tech from start to finish, then survived a late scare, as they defeated the Yellow Jackets 27-21 in Charlottesville. With the win, the Hoos improved their record to 3-5 and 2-2 in the ACC, keeping their slim bowl hopes alive.

If before the game, we found out that one team possessed the ball for 37 minutes and out-gained their opponents on the ground 233 yards to 144, fans would have guessed that the Hoos fell in a typical game to Georgia Tech. But Virginia was able to turn the tables at Scott Stadium.

Against a GT rushing attack that has averaged 283 yards per game this season, the Wahoo defense was disciplined and tough up-front. The Yellow Jackets were unable all game to put together the type of long sustained drives that gas the defense.  After the Cavaliers quickly converted a fumble recovery into a field goal, Georgia Tech broke a 49 yard touchdown run to take a 7-3 lead. When Virginia responded with a 75 yard touchdown drive of its own, the defense surrendered another big play, when Justin Thomas found Clinton Lynch on a nicely-designed 30-yard touchdown strike to give GT a 14-10 lead into halftime.

But the Wahoo defense buckled down further in the second half, forcing a quick three-and-out, then a fumble on the first play of GT's next possession. The offense converted those stops into a field goal and a touchdown, the latter on a 30-yard strike to Canaan Severin to give UVA a 20-14 lead. The Hoos followed with a 13-play, 91-yard touchdown drive on their next chance that drained over 8 minutes from the clock; it looked like that would be enough to hold the Yellow Jackets down, but things got dicey down the stretch.

Georgia Tech scored with 1:41 remaining to cut the lead to 27-21. (Maybe UVA should have gone for two earlier to try to take a 14 point lead...). Then, they recovered an onsides kick that featured a terribly-designed effort from a Cavaliers return team that looked like it had never seen an onsides kick before.  However, GT's comeback effort stalled inside the UVA 40-yard line, and the Hoos picked up their second ACC win.

Matt Johns completed 17 of 28 passes for 175 yards with a TD and an INT. His favorite target was once again Smoke Mizzell, who gained 33 yards through the air and 75 on the ground, as he continued his mid-season hot streak. Daniel Hamm and Albert Reid each earned a rushing touchdown.

Despite the end-of-game issues, this was probably Virginia's most complete game to date. The offense put the defense in position to succeed, scoring two big second-half TDs that didn't allow the Yellow Jackets offense to play from ahead. And the defense put the offense in position to succeed too, forcing two big fumbles and setting up good starting field position. GT's triple option is a difficult offense to shut down, but Wahoo defense really stepped up and got it done.  With both units firing, Virginia was able to pull off the upset over a Georgia Tech team that just upset Florida State.

For Wahoo fans having trouble getting excited over a victory in the midst of another rough football season...just watch the team celebrate. These guys deserve it: