Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas celebrates after a touchdown against Syracuse during the Yellow Jackets' 56-0 win in 2013. (Reuters)
ATLANTA — After coming up short against three stout opponents, Georgia Tech now has the opportunity to go in the opposite direction.
Following Saturday’s 56-0 rout of Syracuse, the Yellow Jackets can make it two in a row against Virginia. The Cavaliers have a four game losing streak after dropping a 35-22 decision to Duke Saturday at home after taking a 22-0 lead.
As poorly as Virginia is playing, the Jackets might not only win but could continue the healthy habits they showed against the Orange. Tech didn’t commit a penalty in a game for the first time since 1968, gave up one turnover, held Syracuse to 3 of 12 on third downs and permitted just one play of more than 20 yards. In short, the Jackets did the sorts of things they had been unable to do in losing to Virginia Tech, Miami and BYU.
“We’re going to build off this,” quarterback Vad Lee said after the game. “We definitely are going to move forward. We know we played three good teams and we also know we killed ourselves in those three games. (Saturday), we set a standard to not get penalties and not get turnovers.”
Tech likely won’t need to be that close to flawless to defeat Virginia, which is ranked 100th in scoring offense (22.3 points per game) and 75th in scoring defense (28.4 points per game). The Cavaliers’ 4.54 yards-per-play average is 117th out of 125 teams in FBS.
It is among the greater mysteries of the season that the Cavaliers beat BYU, 19-16 in their season opener. The same BYU team throttled Tech 38-20 two weeks ago.
Still, it is imperative for Tech to maintain the focus and attention to detail that served it well against Syracuse. While those qualities not may be crucial to surpass the Cavaliers — though it certainly wouldn’t hurt — they will be more critical against Pittsburgh next week and Clemson Nov. 14.
The Virginia matchup is interesting for at least a couple reasons. One, Tech has had an unfathomable lack of success against Virginia in Charlottesville. The Jackets are 1-9 in their past 10 trips following one of the most storied games in school history — the 41-38 win over the top-ranked Cavaliers Nov. 3, 1990.
Tech has brought six ranked teams to Scott Stadium in that span and five times, the exception provided by the 2009 ACC championship team. Most recently, Tech went to Charlottesville in 2011 with a 6-0 record and No. 12 ranking, but was upset 24-21.
Also, Tech will face former Jackets defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta for the third time since he was not retained by coach Paul Johnson upon his hire. Tenuta, who ran the Tech defense under Chan Gailey, faced the Jackets twice as N.C. State linebackers coach in 2010 and 2011, winning the first and losing the second.
Tenuta was one of four assistant coaches hired by Virginia coach Mike London after the Cavaliers finished the 2012 season at 4-8.