Improbable upset of Georgia Tech London's signature moment at UVa
NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Virginia (Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE, US PRESSWIRE / October 14, 2011)
The Yellow Jackets' triple-option was baffling opponents. The Cavaliers' quarterback shuffle was baffling their own fans.
Tell the truth, Virginia faithful. After the Cavs barely survived overtime against Idaho two weeks ago, did you see this coming Saturday? Did you expect Jim Reid's defense to limit 12th-ranked Georgia Tech to its fewest yards this season? Did you bank on tailbacks Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson gouging the Jackets for 267 yards combined?
Apparently most did not, witness the homecoming crowd of 47,692, nearly 14,000 shy of capacity on a perfect afternoon. Years from now, the no-shows may fib and claim they were here, brag that they were among the thousands who stormed the field from the end zone hill as time expired.
It was, without question, the signature moment of Mike London's two seasons as coach, surpassing last year's upset of Miami.
London said "this is one of those wins" that can change perceptions. Those of opponents, fans, prospects, the team itself.
The prevailing perception of the Cavaliers (4-2, 1-1 ACC) was of a program recruiting well but lacking results. They had lost 14 of their last 15 conference games, their worst stretch since 1975-77, and three of their seven victories under London had been against Championship Subdivision opponents.
This was drastically different. Virginia physically dominated a quality team off to its best start since 1966.
"It's been real rough," junior linebacker LaRoy Reynolds said of his career to date, "but with the opportunity that was presented to us, everybody bought in."
Reynolds, middle linebacker Steve Greer and defensive tackle Matt Conrath led a defense that shut out Georgia Tech (6-1, 3-1) for the final 20 minutes and overcame some head-scratching play calls by Virginia offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, whose insistence on passes by quarterbacks Michael Rocco and David Watford extended the game needlessly and ignored the Cavaliers' ground domination.
Indeed, Virginia linemen such as tackles Morgan Moses and Oday Aboushi punished a Jackets defense coordinated by former Cavaliers big whistle Al Groh. Virginia rushed for 272 yards, its most since 2004 against Duke, and ran out the final 5:58.
Translation: The result was no fluke. On this day, the better team, the better-prepared team, prevailed.
Moreover, Virginia was better from the start, marching 73 yards for a touchdown on the game's first possession.
"They couldn't have scripted a better start," said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, as unfiltered as a home-rolled cigarette. "Take the ball, run time off the clock. Then we get the ball and get two penalties in the first four plays. We made some bonehead plays."
Among them: two blocks in the back that nullified an 85-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tevin Washington and a 66-yard Washington completion to Orwin Smith.
Otherwise, Virginia's defense did not break down.
"We always talk about ball-hawking and getting a lot of guys to the ball," Greer said. "A lot of guys did good jobs beating blocks and helping guys out and bringing the ball-carrier down."