Inside the Numbers: Three plays that were the difference in UVA loss at Georgia Tech

uva footballTwo punts. Just field them, nothing fancy, just catch the damn ball, and UVA beats Georgia Tech on Saturday, and it’s not even close.

The first punt issue was an absolute disaster. Tavares Kelly was set up at his 10 after the Virginia D got a stop on Georgia Tech, with the ‘Hoos up 7-3 in the first quarter.

Kelly signaled for a fair catch, but with traffic in front of him, decided to pull up and let the ball hit the turf.

It rolled to the Virginia 1, where Georgia Tech pinned the ‘Hoos in the shadow of their own end zone.

After Bryce Perkins gained a yard on first down, he rolled out to his left on second down, looking to pass.

He ended up getting sacked for a safety, and in the process of going to the ground, linebacker Brant Mitchell held onto and twisted his ankle, an ugly dirty trick that led to Perkins being helped off the field, apparently, at the time, done for the day.

The shock of that moment, UVA’s season seeming to go down with its star quarterback, the special teams allowed Juanyeh Thomas to return the ensuing free kick 77 yards for a touchdown.

A two-point conversion later, and Georgia Tech had 10 points on the board in 11 seconds, and Perkins in the medical tent.

All because Kelly didn’t field the punt.

Perkins would return, and Virginia led 21-16 at the half, and late into the third quarter. The Virginia D got another stop, forcing a Yellow Jackets punt.

Again, Kelly just needs to catch the ball, but again, traffic in front, so he pulls up short.

Kelly tried to signal to upman Darrius Bratton to get out of the way, but the ball grazed his leg, and Georgia Tech was able to cover the ball to recover at the UVA 41.

That would lead to another Georgia Tech touchdown and two-point conversion.

So, now we’re two punts that you simply field, and Georgia Tech is out 18 points.

In a game that went to overtime tied at 27, that’s not insignificant.

I referred in the headline to three plays that made the difference. The third only counts if you don’t have those 18 points already on the board for Georgia Tech, but of course, they had them.

OK, so you remember that Virginia got the ball back with a minute to go, down three, with two timeouts.

What happened to that third timeout?

Well, let me remind you about a third-and-32 at the UVA 21 with 5:59 to go in the third quarter.

The ‘Hoos couldn’t get the right personnel on the field, and had to call a timeout.

Or, rather, chose to call a timeout.

Had to call a timeout is a bit of a stretch.

It was third-and-32! Worst case, you take a five-yard delay of game, and it’s third-and-37, right?

But, no, offensive coordinator Robert Anae burned a timeout to set up a third-and-32 play.

The play, a short catch-and-run to Olamide Zaccheaus, gained 17, and allowed Lester Coleman to pin the Jackets back at their own 15.

Which, after the ensuing three-and-out stop by the Virginia D, was going to set up the UVA offense with the ball at its own 41.

If, big if, the ‘Hoos could have fielded that punt.

Back to the final minute: Virginia had burned through its two timeouts three plays into its final drive in regulation.

Two Perkins passes got the ‘Hoos to the Georgia Tech 21, but when the QB scrambled for 12 yards for a first-and-goal at the 9, he had to line up over the ball to spike it to kill the clock.

Except that, he decided to go with the fake-spike, having seen something at the line as he prepped to clock the ball, that, unfortunately for Perkins and the Cavaliers, wideout Hasise Dubois didn’t also see.

Perkins faked the spike, then waited for Dubois to streak past the Tech secondary, only to see Dubois looking back at him, confused as to what he was doing.

Perkins was forced to throw the ball away, leading to a game-tying Brian Delaney field goal that sent the game to OT.

With a third timeout, UVA has at least two shots from the Georgia Tech 9, and neither of them is a half-baked fake-spike.

Without it, the game goes to OT, and ends up the way it does.

Column by Chris Graham

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