CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia got what it needed.
Riding another strong offensive showing, an efficient performance from quarterback Bryce Perkins and a decent second half from the defense, UVA picked up a critical victory in the competitive ACC Coastal Division chase, beating Georgia Tech 33-28 on Saturday at Scott Stadium.
“We’re doing what we need to do to win games,” Mendenhall said. “That’s gratifying, and I’m happy for our staff. I’m happy for our players and our fans and basically anyone associated with UVA football.”
Heading into a bye week, the Cavaliers are one conference win away from punching their ticket to the ACC championship game in Charlotte, N.C. UVA (7-3, 5-2 ACC) will play Liberty on Nov. 23, then will face rival Virginia Tech on Nov. 29. Both games are at home.
UVA’s Terrell Jana carved up North Carolina a week ago, and he hurt Georgia Tech this week. The former Woodberry Forest star has quickly become one of Perkins’ favorite targets. Jana finished the game with nine receptions for 108 yards a week after reeling in 13 receptions for 146 yards.
Jana’s stellar performances the past two weeks have led to wins, which makes them all that much sweeter for the junior.
“It’s always fun, but for me, I just want to win,” Jana said. “As long as we’re winning, that’s all that I care about.”
Georgia Tech (2-7, 1-5 ACC) struck first Saturday, using a 59-yard strike from James Graham to Ahmarean Brown. The freshman wide receiver ran a deep post route and broke free behind the defense. Graham’s pass fell perfectly into his hands, and he caught the ball in stride and scampered into the end zone.
Virginia quickly answered, driving 76 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. A 2-yard touchdown run from Wayne Taulapapa tied the game at 7-7 with 8:39 remaining in the first quarter. Two Georgia Tech penalties helped extend UVA’s scoring drive.
The Yellow Jackets again used the passing game to drive downfield against the Cavaliers on their second possession. A 75-yard drive ended with a 5-yard touchdown run from Graham, but it was a few broken coverages that allowed the Yellow Jackets to move downfield.
It was another challenging game for the secondary, and Chris Moore went down with an injury in the first half. He was replaced by Heskin Smith, who recently rejoined the team at practice after battling through injuries of his own.
“When he steps on the field, I have no worries,” safety Joey Blount said. “I don’t lean toward his side to help at all. You put him on an island, he’s going to do his thing. He’s going to make a play.”
Blount and the secondary settled down after a slow start.
Following a Virginia punt, Blount intercepted an overthrown pass from Graham and returned it to the Georgia Tech 28. The Cavaliers celebrated in the end zone three players later when Joe Reed caught an out route, made a few moves and reached the end zone from 9 yards out. The first quarter ended with the score knotted at 14-14.
Virginia added a Brian Delaney field goal in the first five minutes of the second quarter to take a 17-14 lead, but the lead could’ve been larger. Virginia settled for the 24-yard field goal after having first-and-goal at Georgia Tech’s 5.
Both teams put on a show in the final minutes of the first half. Georgia Tech used a 25-yard touchdown grab from Malachi Carter to regain the lead with just 44 seconds until halftime. Virginia quickly answered with a 40-yard kickoff return from Tavares Kelly Jr., who took the ball to midfield. Perkins broke free for a 43-yard run to set up a 3-yard touchdown run later in the drive, and the Cavaliers took a 24-21 lead into the halftime break.
The second half didn’t feature the same offensive outbursts. Virginia held strong defensively, and neither team scored in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter started with Virginia rolling. The Cavaliers struck first on a 34-yard field goal from Delaney in the first two minutes of the quarter. They extended their 27-21 lead to 33-21 on a 3-yard touchdown run from Taulapapa. His rush capped a four-play, 50-yard touchdown drive. The 2-point conversion attempt failed.
Georgia Tech bounced back with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 33-28 with 5:30 remaining.
Virginia controlled the ball and burned the final 5:30 to finish the victory, setting up a chance to win the division.
Georgia Tech 14 7 0 7 — 28
Virginia 14 10 0 9 — 33
GT—A.Brown 59 pass from Graham (Wells kick), 13:19
UVA—Taulapapa 2 run (Delaney kick), 8:39
GT—Graham 5 run (Wells kick), 5:09
UVA—J.Reed 9 pass from Perkins (Delaney kick), 1:50
UVA—FG Delaney 24, 10:36
GT—Carter 25 pass from Graham (Wells kick), :44
UVA—Perkins 3 run (Delaney kick), :11
UVA—FG Delaney 34, 13:32
UVA—Taulapapa 3 run (pass failed), 10:57
GT—Mason 8 run (Wells kick), 5:30
First downs 19 25
Rushes-yards 32-143 37-155
Passing 229 258
Comp-Att-Int 15-22-1 24-35-0
Return Yards 17 138
Punts-Avg. 4-35.5 3-39.33
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-51 6-49
Time of Possession 24:46 35:14
RUSHING—Georgia Tech, Mason 19-94, Graham 8-42, Jam.Griffin 3-7, Howard 1-2, (Team) 1-(minus 2). Virginia, Perkins 21-106, Taulapapa 10-37, Kier 2-6, J.Reed 2-5, Atkins 1-3, (Team) 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—Georgia Tech, Graham 15-22-1-229. Virginia, Perkins 24-35-0-258.
RECEIVING—Georgia Tech, Sanders 5-21, T.Oliver 4-57, T.Davis 3-54, A.Brown 1-59, Carter 1-25, Deveney 1-13. Virginia, Jana 9-108, J.Reed 5-27, Kemp 4-51, Kelly 2-46, Cowley 2-23, Taulapapa 2-3.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Georgia Tech, Wells 30.