Georgia Tech Smashes UVa
Sep 15, 2012
The fears of an inexperienced defense facing Georgia Tech's spread option offense turned into nightmares for Virginia on Saturday in Atlanta as missed assignments and poor tackling led to a big-play bonanza for the Yellow Jackets. So when the UVa offense struggled for the second straight week and a shootout didn't materialize, the scoreboard turned ugly in a 56-20 loss for the Hoos.
Cavalier coach Mike London called it humbling after the game.
"It's a humbling experience when you come in and get beat like that. When you don't execute well on defense or offense, things like that happen. There's lot to look at. We're not going to point fingers or blame anybody," London said. "That's a good football team. They ran their style of offense, and they came out ready to play. We got too far of a hole dug to get out of, and they continued to play well. We tried to find some sort of balance and some sort of a rhythm, but could never get into it."
The issues started immediately for the Hoos (2-1, 0-1 ACC). After the Cavs' offense opened with a three-and-out possession, the Yellow Jackets (2-1, 1-1 ACC) exposed the Virginia defense instantly as they connected on a 70-yard touchdown pass on their first play of the game. Quarterback Tevin Washington found fullback Zach Laskey sprinting up the sidelines on a wheel route as UVa linebacker Henry Coley couldn't recover from a shallow angle toward a potential pass to the flats.
"That was just luck. It's the matchup. You get the guy on the linebacker, and he played the out route and we ran a wheel route. It was a great throw by Tevin and a great route by Zach," Tech coach Paul Johnson said.
The UVa defense couldn't stop GT's option attack.
It may have been luck, but it was not a fluke. Virginia's defense got gashed for big plays all afternoon. In fact, GT gained 60 or more yards on three of its first four plays. In addition to Laskey's jumpstart catch, Orwin Smith ripped off a 77-yard touchdown run and Washington rumbled 60 yards to the 1-yard line as well. Washington punched it in from there as he finished with 93 yards and 3 TDs on 11 carries; he also added 125 yards and 1 TD passing.
Back-up quarterback Vad Lee added 2 rushing touchdowns, including a 41-yarder. Reserve fullback Matt Connors had a 32-yard TD run too as Virginia's tackling turnstile stumbled through a rough outing to say the least.
"It is demoralizing when you maybe have a guy right there that maybe missed a tackle or maybe had an assignment error. We talked about it at the beginning, this type of offense is assignment-oriented offense. When you don't execute to the fullest extent, you can get hurt like that," London said.
Georgia Tech's 56 points are the third-highest total for the program in an ACC game. The Jackets' previous high point total against the Hoos came in the team's first ever meeting, a 42-19 win in 1965. The 36-point spread also represented the fifth largest margin of victory in an ACC game for Tech, which has won four league games in its history by 38 points or more.
Kevin Parks led the team in rushing against GT.
"Right before we left we watched a clip of the last play of the game last year. The clip was of the two sidelines. Their sideline was going bananas after the last play that they stopped us and we looked like we had no life," Washington said. "We tried to approach the game today with a challenge from our coaches and our teammates that we would come out and give our best shot. We had revenge on our mind from last year."
With the defense faltering in a big way, the UVa offense needed to bring a sizzling performance to the field. It didn't.
The Cavaliers sputtered for the second week in a row as blocking breakdowns bogged down any shot at point production. The running backs had little running room and the passing attack remained inconsistent for much of the game. In the end, Virginia posted 98 yards rushing after rolling to 274 rushing yards in last season's 24-21 victory over Georgia Tech. Kevin Parks and Khalek Shepherd led the way with 53 and 33 rushing yards, respectively."If you can stop the running game you can play. We limited their running game until the end when they got a few yards," Johnson said. "For the most part the first team did a really good job against the running game. If you can't run the football, it's hard to play most of the time."
Phillip Sims engineered two touchdown drives.
Until late in the contest, only a first-quarter drive ended with points when Michael Rocco found Jake McGee for a 19-yard touchdown pass. Other than that first quarter end zone visit, the Cavs didn't score again until the fourth quarter with the game well out of reach and lots of reserves in the game for both sides.
Of course, one of those reserves draws more attention when it's a highly touted quarterback transfer. Phillip Sims checked in for three drives (two came back to back because GT fumbled the punt) and produced two touchdowns. On the first, he lofted a 22-yard pass over the defense on 4th-and-4 as E.J. Scott hauled in the touchdown reception. After a Virginia timeout with 6 seconds to go in the game, Sims added another TD toss on 3rd-and-Goal when he connected with Zach Swanson for a 1-yard score.
Sims completed 6 of 8 passes for 56 yards and those 2 TDs, while rushing for 4 yards with 1 sack. That came in relief of Rocco, who compiled 143 yards on 15-of-25 passing with 1 TD and 2 INTs; he lost 8 yards on the ground and was sacked once as well. Parks led the team with 34 receiving yards, while McGee added 25.
"We've got to get guys back healthy and buying into the fact that they have to execute better. We've got to take it per person, per man, per coach. We've got to prepare them better," London said. "There are always things when you lose a game like this, you're quick to point fingers, you've got to do this, you've got to teach that. This is the third game of the season, and we see a lot of things we need to fix. Those guys in the locker room are my guys, and I've got to coach them better. Ultimately, the responsibility lies with me with the product that's out on the field. I didn't do a very good job of getting the team ready to play this team."
The Cavaliers now put the specialty preparation needed for Georgia Tech aside. Certainly Saturday's performance isn't what anyone in favor of the orange and blue wanted to see, but a sluggish September does not immediately wreck the season. The Hoos need look no further than their own past for that motivator. Last season, Virginia opened 2-2 while squeaking out a 34-31 win at Indiana. Throw in a narrow escape of Idaho on the first day of October, a 21-20 overtime affair, and things didn't look too rosy for 2011 to become an 8-4 campaign.
The Hoos will try to keep that in mind as they regroup for a trip to TCU next week.
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