Taking a closer look at Georgia Tech’s loss to Virginia

Georgia Tech running back Dontae Smith (4) reaches out for the touchdown next to Virginia outside linebacker Noah Taylor (7)  Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Charlottesville, Va. (Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress)
Caption
Georgia Tech running back Dontae Smith (4) reaches out for the touchdown next to Virginia outside linebacker Noah Taylor (7) Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Charlottesville, Va. (Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress)

Credit: AP

Georgia Tech fell to 3-4 for the season with its 48-40 loss to Virginia Saturday night in Charlottesville, Va. Ahead 13-0 less than nine minutes into the game, the Yellow Jackets defense gave way in a pronounced manner as Cavaliers quarterback Brennan Armstrong led scoring drives on seven of the team’s next eight possessions.

Key play

With Tech ahead 16-14 in the second quarter and Virginia facing a third-and-5 from is 23, the Jackets sent six defenders at Armstrong, who was able to get rid of the ball to wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks by the right sideline. Wicks had a first down, but then eluded defensive back Derrik Allen in the open field and outraced the Tech secondary to the goal line for a 77-yard touchdown pass. The Cavaliers took a 21-16 lead and never trailed again.

Credit: ACC

Caption
Two weeks after Jeff Sims led an unlikely rally to defeat Duke in the final minute, Georgia Tech was unable to summon the same magic against Cavaliers.

Credit: ACC

Key stat

Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong amassed 495 yards of total offense (396 passing yards, 99 rushing yards), the second highest total ever recorded against Tech, second only to Wake Forest quarterback Rusty LaRue’s 514 yards in 1995.

Key quote

Coach Geoff Collins on the challenge of trying to defend quarterback Brennan Armstrong:

“The biggest thing was trying to show him different looks throughout the game. We did do that, but the kid’s really good. He was finding the holes, the soft spots in certain coverages. We kept trying to change it up, kept trying to change the pressures, and he kept seeing it and finding it and just has a knack for finding a way to keep plays alive and find his receivers and keeps his eyes downfield and he makes plays. But just the multiplicity of what we were doing, the multiplicity of what they do, that was the part we were trying to do, and he found us and exposed us.”

Virginia 48, Georgia Tech 40

What we learned

In the fourth game in a row against a team in the top 20 in FBS in total offense, Tech was not equal to the task. Virginia gouged the Jackets for 636 yards of offense, the Cavaliers’ season high. Failures in coverage, pass rush and tackling all contributed, as did Virginia’s excellence. Three of the four teams that the Jackets faced in this gauntlet of North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Duke and Virginia exceeded their season averages for total offense against Tech.

Bright spot

Though 130 of the yards were gained in the seemingly hopeless comeback try in the final 3:50, Tech gained 570 yards of offense, a high for Collins’ tenure. The Jackets did so with a patched-up offense line that was without two starters (right tackle Jordan Williams and left guard Kenny Cooper, although Cooper played a small role) and a third, right guard Ryan Johnson, playing out of position at right tackle. The Jackets rushed for 270 yards after gaining 215 in the two previous games combined.

What’s next?

Georgia Tech will be at home Saturday to face Virginia Tech in its homecoming game. The Hokies lost at home to Syracuse 41-35 on Saturday to fall to 3-4. In the teams’ last meeting, in 2019, Virginia Tech shut out Georgia Tech 45-0, which was the Jackets’ first shutout loss at home since 1957.

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