Having lost once more in an excruciating way Saturday, Georgia Tech also once more was forced to hold up a mirror to identify the reasons for defeat.
“We made way too many mistakes to win,” Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said during the autopsy.
This is beginning to sound like a familiar litany here in a 4-4 season, three of those losses coming in the past four games, but here is the lineup of errors behind Saturday’s 40-36 loss at Virginia:
**Some truly lamentable special-teams play, which led to two long kickoff returns, the second a 92-yarder for a touchdown by Virginia’s Joe Reed late in the second quarter. And an ill-executed onside/pooch kickoff by Tech that failed spectacularly in the first quarter, allowing the Cavaliers a short field on which to eventually put up their second field goal of the day.
“It’s a killer,” Johnson said of the breakdowns. “I’m at a loss. You can’t work any harder than we’re working on it.”
After scoring their first touchdown, Tech attempted to get cute on the ensuing kickoff. Johnson said it was supposed to be a pooch kick into a void beyond Virginia’s front line of blockers. It instead dribbled only eight yards downfield, too short to be recoverable by the Yellow Jackets.
“We worked on it all week. I guess it’s never there if you can’t do it,” Johnson said. “Any kind of kick we’re hopefully going to get the ball and go up 14-3.”
**After seemingly taking control of the game scoring on a 78-yard TaQuon Marshall run and a 27-yard Bruce Jordan-Swilling interception return on the first two plays from scrimmage in the second half, Tech squandered the momentum.
After Jordan-Swilling’s interception, Virginia drove 78 yards in only eight plays to cut into the 28-13 deficit.
Then, on Tech’s next possession Marshall threw his first career interception, an up-for-grabs toss that was grabbed by Virginia safety Quin Blanding. A personal-foul penalty against Tech gifted Virginia with an additional 15 yards. In two plays, the Cavaliers scored, and with the two-point conversion, tied the score.
An even more egregious interception was to follow in the fourth quarter. This time Qua Searcy had broken free down the middle of the field, but Marshall’s throw seemed to float like a dandelion seed on the breeze, allowing all kinds of defensive compensation. Coming from almost out of the frame was Virginia’s Brenton Nelson to claim the pass for himself.
“I just put a little bit too much air under it,” Marshall said. “I probably should have gotten to him a little bit quicker. I didn’t think the guy would be able to under-cut it. He made a pretty good play on the ball.
“You get all the way down to the end of the season and don’t throw an interception and throw two in one game. The second one’s all on me. If I get him the ball quicker and don’t put too much air under the ball, it’s a touchdown. Nobody was there.”
**Backed up to Tech’s goal line with the next possession, Marshall fumbled a fake into the line in the end zone and had to scramble to recover it for Tech to suffer only a safety.
**Tech scored to take a 36-33 lead with just three minutes remaining, even succeeding on a two-point conversion in the process. The lead lasted for less than two minutes. Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert was 4-for-4 passing on that drive, including the 27-yard scoring pass.
“They went 65 yards pretty quickly,” Johnson said grimly.
**Tech’s last-gasp play was a testament to the difficulties its offensive line often had in limiting Virginia’s aggression. On fourth-and-15 at the Virginia 37, Marshall was flushed out of the pocket and forced to throw a harmless ball that floated out of bounds before he was chased off the field himself.