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UVA Football: Reeling ‘Hoos face resurgent, confident Georgia Tech on Thursday

Chris Graham
uva football
Photo: UVA Athletics

Brent Key is getting a lot of the credit for Georgia Tech’s turnaround, but looking back on it, the turnaround seems to date to the Central Florida game.

The last game of the Geoff Collins era was a 27-10 loss in which the Yellow Jackets dominated the stats, but were undone by a blocked punt just before halftime and two fumbles that set up UCF with short fields.

Tech (3-3, 2-1 ACC) outgained Central Florida 452-333, and held the Golden Knights to 49 yards through the air.

But Collins was let go after the loss dropped the Ramblin’ Wreck to a 1-3 start, and since, Key has led the team to back-to-back victories – 26-21 at Pitt, in a game in which the Tech D forced three turnovers, and a 23-20 OT win over Duke, in which the D held the Blue Devils to 278 total yards.

Jeff Sims has looked good of late, throwing for 300+ yards in two of his last three games, and rushing for 81 yards in the win at Pitt and 95 yards in the Duke win.

Sims, in last year’s 48-40 loss to UVA, passed for 300 yards and three TDs and added 65 yards on the ground.

“He’s a problem,” UVA coach Tony Elliott said. “He throws it much better than you want him to. And he’s shown some accuracy on some down-the-field balls. When he throws the ball down, he takes off. Takes two, three guys to tackle him.”

Hassan Hall, who had 162 yards for Tech in last season’s loss in Charlottesville, is the team’s leading rusher, with 330 yards and a 5.4 yards-per-carry average.

The top target for Sims is 5’11” sophomore Nate McCollum, a slot receiver who has 29 catches (on 37 targets) for 283 yards.

The defense averages 19.2 QB pressures and 2.5 sacks per game, led by Keion White, a 6’5”, 296-pound senior who has 20 pressures and three sacks this season, and Sylvain Yondjouen, a 6’4”, 257-pound redshirt junior, who has 12 pressures and three sacks.

“Defensively, they are multiple, so they can create some havoc by jumping in and out of structure, and that’s something we focused on this open week is being able to handle the structure,” Elliott said. “When people line up, it’s easy to target them. You can have some successes when you jump around and guys start moving, that’s where it creates problem for any offense.”

Vegas has Georgia Tech as a three-point favorite. It would have been hard to believe just a few weeks ago that the Yellow Jackets would be playing this one with a chance to go 3-1 in the ACC.

“They’re playing with a lot more confidence. I think their mindset is to take advantage of the situation and not let it be a detriment to them,” Elliott said. “We know they’ll come out, play hard. They’ll be excited. But we’ve got to make sure that we focus on us and we come out with a mindset that we want to play our best game from start to finish.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].