Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Zach Laskey (37) runs as wide receiver DeAndre Smelter (15) and offensive linesman Chase Roberts (79), a GAC grad, block in the third quarter. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defeated the Virginia Cavaliers 35-25 at Scott Stadium. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
CHARLOTESVILLE, Va. — Georgia Tech defeated Virginia 35-25 on Saturday despite turning the ball over five times and committing nine penalties for 97 yards. Georgia Tech had lost nine of their last 10 games at Virginia, including a 24-21 loss in 2011 when the Yellow Jackets were 6-0 and ranked No. 12 in the country.
“It was a crazy game with all the turnovers and penalties we had today, give our kids credit for finding a way to win,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said.
Georgia Tech got off to a tremendous start in the first quarter with a 35 yard run by Robert Godhigh on the second play from scrimmage, followed immediately by a 36 yard touchdown run by David Sims. The three play drive took just 65 seconds off the clock and gave the Yellow Jackets the early advantage 7-0.
The remainder of the first quarter, however, left something to be desired. Georgia Tech would fumble on their next two possessions while Virginia missed a field goal and failed to convert on fourth down. Virginia had made a second field goal attempt, but offside on the Yellow Jackets blew the play dead and made it 4th and 1.
Rather than trying another field goal Virginia head coach Mike London decided to go for the conversion. Watford’s pass intended for the fullback was badly overthrown and Georgia Tech took over.
Georgia Tech’s offense totaled 160 yards in the first quarter, but the two fumbles kept the score at 7-0.
Virginia led off the the second quarter with a 13 play 87 yard drive that stalled at the Georgia Tech 11 yard line. London decided this time to settle for the 28 yard field goal which made the score 7-3.
Lynn Griffin took the ensuing kickoff for the Yellow Jackets all the way to the Virginia 41 yard line. Backup quarterback Justin Thomas came in to lead the Georgia Tech offense on the drive which resulted in a 7 yard touchdown run by Zach Laskey and a 14-3 lead.
Kevin Parks scored on a seven yard touchdown run with four minutes remaining that made the score 14-10. The score was set up by an incredible 31 yard pass from Watford to Tim Smith that found a seam down the right sideline between two Georgia Tech defenders.
Virginia moved the ball well throughout the first half and actually outgained the Yellow Jackets 279 yards to 275 but could not capitalize on their plethora of opportunities. The Cavaliers had two opportunities to take the lead just before the half as Georgia Tech fumbled for the third time and threw an interception. Virginia took over after the fumble at their own 39, but a fumble of their own took them back 12 yards and forced a punt.
After Thomas threw an interception at the Virginia 41, the Cavaliers drove all the way down to the Georgia Tech 14 where a pass interference on the Yellow Jackets would put the ball on the 2. After Parks was stuffed on first down, London called his final timeout with six seconds remaining. However, Parks would be stuffed again on second down and the half came to a close.
“(Thomas) has been practicing really well,” Johnson said. “We wanted to get him in there and he led a touchdown drive so we weren’t going to take him out. But Vad played the second half.”
After Virginia’s drive to open the second half stalled the ensuing punt was nearly blocked and only went 21 yards, giving the Yellow Jackets the ball at the Virginia 36 yard line. Georgia Tech would immediately be forced into a fourth and five, and this time it was Johnson who passed up the field goal to go for the fourth down conversion. Vad Lee’s pass into double coverage would be intercepted at the Virginia two yard line for Georgia Tech’s fifth turnover of the day and its third in as many possessions.
Laskey finally got the offense back on track on the next Georgia Tech possession as he ran the ball on each of the five plays of the 62 yard drive, including a four yard touchdown run for his second score of the day. The junior finished with a career high 133 yards on 16 carries. Sims also had a good day at the B-back position with 107 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown.
“Both the B-backs had very good games” Johnson said. “They were finally able to hit some big plays.”
Watford kept his team in the game, however, as he responded by leading an 12 play 88 yard drive where he was eight of nine for 63 yards. Watford finished the drive off with a five yard touchdown pass to Darious Jennings to make the score 21-17
Robert Godhigh kept the back and forth second half going on Georgia Tech’s first drive of the fourth quarter as he took an option pitch and tip-toed the sideline before cutting back across the field and racing for a 65 yard touchdown and a 28-17 lead.
Godhigh leads the the conference in yards per rush and his 111 yards on just 5 carries on Saturday were a perfect representation of his big play ability.
Virgina wasn’t ready to go away just yet though. The ensuing Cavalier drive would be kept alive with a huge fourth down and nine conversion on the Georgia Tech 29 yard line as Watford found Tim Smith for a 17 yard gain. On the very next play, Watford threw his second touchdown pass of the game to Jennings for the 12 yard score with 3:23 reamining. The Cavaliers two point conversion attempt was successful, making the score 28-25 with two timeouts remaining for Virginia.
With the game on the line Georgia Tech needed a couple first downs to ice the game. After being stuffed on first down, Paul Johnson rolled the dice with a play action pass that connected with Godhigh for 38 yards. Then on third and two Sims put the game away with a 29 yard run touchdown run right up the middle.
“I’ve never had a game where we were minus five in turnovers and still won,” Johnson said. “And most of those were self-inflicted. The penalties on defense just killed us. But we were able to bow our backs and get the win so thats the positive.”