It was the definition of an ugly win, but, in large to a tremendous performance by the UVA defense in terrorizing backup quarterback Zach Gibson, the Cavaliers gave head coach Tony Elliott his first ACC victory with a 16-9 win at Georgia Tech Thursday night.
The Virginia offense, scoring just three points in the second half, after getting off to a miserable start, somehow managed to put up over 400 yards of total offense. But it was the defense that allowed just three points in the game to the Tech offense that earned the victory.
The Cavaliers offense struggled to sustain drives the entire game, but a 75-yard, quick-strike scoring drive late in the first quarter gave the Cavaliers the lead for good, as it turned out.
If it’s better to win ugly than to lose looking pretty, then so be it. Here’s some takeaways from Thursday night’s … win.
Ugly or not, it’s a win
Forget the dropped passes, the missed kicks, the dumb coaching decisions, just take the win and hope it’s something that can be built upon. Virginia went to Atlanta on a three-game conference losing streak. The final stats don’t mean much in this game. The Cavaliers did what they had to do: win. Later, the numbers can be analyzed, we know they are bad, but for now they add up to a win.
A much-maligned defense is surprisingly good
Even though starting Yellow Jackets quarterback Jeff Sims watched most of the game from the sidelines, losing to a backup signal-caller is something the Cavaliers are familiar with. Remember Louisville?
The UVA defense had eight sacks in the game and produced a huge interception in the end zone that erased a sure-fire Georgia Tech score. Time after time after an offensive misfire, the defense came through with a big play.
The offense is still struggling, but not as bad
The offense is still doing things that kill drives. Dropped passes, penalties, fumbles and a horrible kicking game, but some promise was there. Brennan Armstrong is moving out of the pocket more and appears comfortable doing so. His 44-yard scoring strike to Dontayvion Wicks was a flashback to the 2021 Cavalier offense.
Can Virginia get a kicker from Klockner?
It was an absolute nightmare from the kicking game. Two chip-shot field goals, a missed extra point, points left off the scoreboard that kept this game all too close, surely there’s a leg capable of getting the job done available. With an offense that’s often misfiring, a solid kicking game is a must.
Coaching must get better as well
Why were the Cavaliers anywhere near the punter late in the game? All that was needed was to drop back and allow returner Billy Kemp to fair-catch the punt near midfield, and simply run the clock out. Instead, Lavel Davis was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for leaping over the GT line, extending the Georgia Tech drive, and keeping the door open.
While it’s hard to summarize this game as a momentum-building win, it did get the second half of the season started off with an absolute necessity – a victory. Another loss would have all but ended any meaningful football for the ‘Hoos in 2022. The win brings the Cavaliers back home to start a four-game homestand. In fact, UVA doesn’t play a game outside the Commonwealth for the reminder of the regular season.