Big Plays Propel Yellow Jackets to Senior Day Win

ATLANTA (AP) Marcus Marshall ran 67 yards for a touchdown, Justin Thomas threw a 54-yard scoring pass to Clinton Lynch and Qua Searcy broke loose for a 60-yard TD, leading Georgia Tech to a 31-17 victory over Virginia on Saturday.

Georgia Tech (7-4, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) struggled through most of the first half and went to the locker room trailing 10-7. Marshall’s career-long run in front of the Cavaliers bench accounted for more than half of the Yellow Jackets’ 111 yards at the break.

But Virginia (2-9, 1-6), with Matt Johns starting at quarterback for the first time this season, couldn’t hold on. Lynch got behind the secondary to haul in a pass that put Georgia Tech ahead to stay with just under 4 1-2 minutes to go in the third quarter.

Before the period was over, Searcy took a pitch to the right, cut back across the field, picked up a block near the end zone from Thomas and trotted into the end zone for a 21-10 lead.

Virginia closed the gap to 24-17 on Johns’ 1-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Santoro with 7:18 remaining. But a punt backed up the Cavaliers to their own 2, and Lance Austin returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown that sealed Virginia’s sixth straight loss.

Marshall finished with 127 yards on 16 carries. Thomas, who didn’t play the previous week in an upset of Virginia Tech because of an injury, completed 5 of 10 passes for 122 yards.

Johns, reclaiming the starting job he had last season, was 27 of 44 for 220 yards. But he had three interceptions in the second half, the last of them on a meaningless heave at the end of the game

TAKEAWAYS

Virginia: A year to forget – boy, that must sound familiar to Wahoo fans – is mercifully winding down. The Cavaliers were doomed by another second-half meltdown, which has become a familiar theme. They have been outscored 183-114 over the final two quarters this season.

Georgia Tech: Before a listless, half-filled stadium, the Yellow Jackets came out flat after their big win at Virginia Tech. But the triple-option offense produced enough big plays to beat the Cavaliers, avoiding the sort of upset that would’ve really turned up the heat on coach Paul Johnson.

UP NEXT

Virginia: Finishes its first year under coach Bronco Mendenhall next Saturday at Virginia Tech, which has won 12 straight games in the series. The Cavaliers need an upset to avoid tying the school record for most losses in a season. They’ve had 10 losses five other times, most recently in 2013.

Georgia Tech: Closes the regular season on the road against state rival Georgia. The Bulldogs have won 13 of the last 15 meetings between the teams, including a 13-7 victory in 2015 that turned out to be the final game at Georgia for coach Mark Richt.

Team Notes

  • With the win, Georgia Tech moved to 7-4 overall.
  • Georgia Tech finished with an even 4-4 record in ACC play this season, marking the eighth time in Paul Johnson’s nine seasons as head coach and the 21st time in the last 22 seasons overall that the Yellow Jackets have finished .500 or better in conference play.
  • Georgia Tech finished 5-2 in seven games at Bobby Dodd Stadium this season, marking the sixth time in Johnson’s nine seasons as head coach that the Yellow Jackets have won at least five home games. Prior to Johnson’s arrival in 2008, Georgia Tech won five home games in a season only three times in the previous 16 campaigns.
  • Georgia Tech moved to 20-18-1 all-time, 16-7 at home and 6-3 under Johnson versus Virginia.
  • The loss was Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s first in three games against Georgia Tech. As head coach at BYU, Mendenhall beat Georgia Tech in 2012 (41-17) and 2013 (28-20).
  • All three of Georgia Tech’s touchdowns covered at least 50 yards (67-yard run by Marcus Marshall, 54-yard pass from Justin Thomas to Clinton Lynch and 60-yard run by Qua Searcy). Georgia Tech has 15 offensive plays that have covered 50 or more yards this season, 11 of which have been for touchdowns.
  • Georgia Tech ‘s defense had a season-high three interceptions, all in the second half, and has picked off five passes over its last two games (two in last Saturday’s win at Virginia Tech). Over the first nine games of the season, Georgia Tech had only four interceptions.
  • Georgia Tech’s 41 offensive plays were the fewest that it has run in a game in 51 years (dating back to it also running 41 plays versus Vanderbilt on Sept. 18, 1965) and were tied for the second-fewest offensive plays in school history (record: 38 vs. Duke, Oct. 29, 1960).

Individual Notes

  • Georgia Tech sophomore BB Marcus Marshall rushed for 127 yards on 16 carries (7.9 avg.), marking the second-straight game and fourth time in 22 career games that he has surpassed the 100-yard mark. He has rushed for 270 yards on 35 carries (7.7 avg.) and 2 touchdowns over the last two games, including 143 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown in last Saturday’s 30-20 win at No. 18 Virginia Tech.
  • Marshall’s67-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the longest rush of his career (prev. 64 vs. Alcorn State, Sept. 3, 2015).
  • Georgia Tech sophomore AB Clinton Lynch amassed 96 all-purpose yards (85 receiving, 11 rushing) on four touches (three receptions, one rush). For the season, Clinton is averaging 17.5 yards per touch — 807 yards (474 receiving, 333 rushing) on 46 touches (15 receptions, 31 rushes).
  • Lynch’s 56-yard go-ahead touchdown reception in the third quarter was his sixth touchdown of the season that covered at least 45 yards.
  • Georgia Tech sophomore AB Qua Searcy’s 60-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the longest play of his career (prev. long play: 36-yard reception vs. Boston College, Sept. 3, 2016; prev. long run: 31 yards, twice, last vs. Mercer, Sept. 10, 2016).
  • Georgia Tech senior Ryan Rodwell’s 69-yard punt in the second quarter was the longest of his career (prev. 59 at Clemson, Oct. 10, 2015).
  • Lance Austin’s 24-yard interception returned for a touchdown was Georgia Tech’s first defensive touchdown of the season.

ACC Digital Network Video Highlights

Senior Day Pregame Ceremony (Video)

Head Coach Paul Johnson Postgame Press Conference (Video)

Georgia Tech Student-Athletes Postgame Press Conference (Video)

Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network Highlights (Audio)

Paul Johnson Postgame Press Conference (Audio)

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