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Tech’s rushing attack too much for Virginia

Charlottesville, VA - Georgia Tech’s option offense collected 394 rushing yards in a rout of Syracuse one week ago. Saturday in Charlottesville, the Yellow Jackets equaled the feat to hold on in an historically-unfriendly environment. Three different running backs totaled 100 or more rushing yards and Tech hit the 394 mark for the second consecutive week in a 35-25 victory over Virginia.

It was a rare win for Tech (5-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) in Charlottesville. The Yellow Jackets had lost nine of their last 10 games at Scott Stadium, but never trailed Saturday.

Virginia (2-6, 0-4) got as close as 28-25 when David Watford, who set a 2013 single-game high for passing yards for a Georgia Tech opponent with 376, found Darius Jennings for a 12-yard touchdown, then Khalek Shepherd for the two-point conversion with 3:23 left in the game.

With Virginia hoping to get the ball back down just three, Tech quarterback Vad Lee found Robert Godhigh for a 38-yard completion to the Cavaliers’ 37, and three plays later David Sims picked up his second touchdown of the day from 29 yards, part of a 107-yard day, to make it a 35-25 game.

Zach Laskey, who led the Yellow Jackets’ punishing ground game (7.6 yards per carry) with 133 yards, was the star on Tech’s scoring drive late in the third quarter. Laskey carried the ball five consecutive times for 62 yards, including a four-yard scoring burst that put the Yellow Jackets up 21-10.

Virginia, which is winless through its first four conference games for the second consecutive season, answered with an impressive drive, though it was aided by a costly Tech penalty, to pull to within four points. The Cavaliers were set to punt the ball away on fourth-and-8 from their own 26, but Tech was hit with a roughing-the-kicker penalty and the hosts had new life. Watford’s five-yard touchdown toss to Jennings cut the Tech lead to 21-17 just 15 seconds into the final period.

Godhigh then picked up 65 of his 111 rushing yards on a career-long touchdown run that gave the visitors a 28-17 lead with 12:46 left.

Virginia looked poised to take the lead just as the teams were headed to the halftime locker room, but Tech’s defense made a huge stand.

Trailing 14-10, it was first-and-goal from the 2 for Virginia with a half a minute to play in the second quarter. On first down, Kevin Parks gained one yard and rather than try for a short field goal on second down that might’ve gotten the Cavaliers to within a point heading into the third quarter, the hosts got greedy with six seconds left and after a time out Parks was stopped for no gain.

Virginia’s run game didn’t have much of an impact in the opening half - 20 carries for just 59 yards - but Parks had made it 14-10 with a six-yard touchdown run at the 7:41 mark of the second quarter.

Tech’s option attack was another story. The Yellow Jackets also averaged 7.6 yards per carry in the first 30 minutes and got rushing scores from David Sims (36 yards) on the third play of the game to make it 7-0 and Laskey from seven yards to push the lead out to 14-3 midway through the second.

Of course, it could’ve been a much better first half for Tech as the visitors from Atlanta lost three fumbles and had a late-second quarter interception by backup quarterback Justin Thomas.