CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Nov. 6) – Virginia quarterback David Rivers, making his first collegiate start, threw for three touchdown passes and tailback Thomas Jones rushed for 213 yards and two more scores as Virginia upended 7th-ranked Georgia Tech, 45-38, before a crowd of 44,500 fans at UVA’s David Harrison III Field/Scott Stadium and a regional TV audience on ABC.
In doing so, the Cavaliers overcame Tech leads of 17-0 and 24-7 in the game and an inspired effort by Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, who set the Atlantic Coast Conference career total offense record and tailback Sean Gregory , who rushed for 119 yards on 22 carries and three TDs.
Tech, which lost for only the third time in its last 19 games, saw a five-game winning straek snapped. The Jackets got on the board first and looked to make a rout of the contest in the first quarter, taking a 17-0 lead on a Luke Manget 24-yard field goal, a four-yard TD pass from Hamilton to flanker Kelly Campbell and an 18-yard scoring run by Gregory.
Tech’s defense continually shut the Cavaliers down in the early going and the Jackets even overcame a lost fumble at the Virginia 18 when Tech’s Marvious Hester returned a Virginia punt to the Wahoo 18, setting up Gregory’s score.
But Rivers, a junior from Augusta, Ga., who was making his first start in place of regular starter Dan Ellis, who had suffered a concuss the previous week against Florida State, got untracked in the second quarter, marching Virginia 79 yards in 15 plays for a score. Short passes to his tight ends and fullbacks keyed the march which was capped off by a four-yard TD toss to tight end Billy Baber to cut the Jackets’ lead to 17-7 with7:53 remaining in the half.
The Jackets, though, responded quickly, marching 71 yards in 10 plays with Hamilton connecting on a clutch 21-yard pass play to flanker Kerry Watkins to keep the drive alive. Seven straight runs finished off the march with Gregory scoring from four yards out with just 3:14 remaining before intermission.
But Virginia climbed into the game with a pair of touchdowns in the final two minutes of the half. First Rivers drove the Wahoos 62 yards in just four plays. Rivers connected with flanker Billy McMullen for a 39-yard gain to start the drive and Jones capped it off, scoring from 10 yards out with 1:55 remaining.
Tech started a drive of its own. But on a first down play, Virginia linebacker Yurbenal Isabelle intercepted a Hamilton pass and returned it to the Tech 40-yardline. Seven plays later, Rivers connected with wide receiver Kevin Coffey for a 12 yard TD pass play with only nine seconds remaining in the half and suddenly Virginia had whittled Tech’s lead to just 24-21 at halftime.
The Wahoos took control of the second half quickly, marching80 yards in 8 plays for the go-ahead score. Virginia marched to the Tech 35 where the Jackets defense stiffened, forcing a fourth and one play. But Jones broke free at the line of scrimmage and raced 35 yards for the touchdown to give the Cavaliers a 28-24 lead with 12:02 remaining in the third quarter.
Tech answered quickly marching 81 yards in 11 plays with Hamilton executing the option to perfection. His 14-yard keeper set up a two-yard scoring run by Gregory for a 31-28 advantage with 8:07 left in the third quarter.
Virginia then tied the game on their next possession, Jones accounting for 62 yards of a 90-yard, 12-play drive. Tech’s defense stiffened, though at the five and Virginia had to settle for a 21-yard Braverman field goal for a 31-31 deadlock with 3:06 remaining in the third quarter.
Tech was unable to move the ball on its next possession, and Virginia took control of the game, marching 64 yards in 12 plays with Rivers connecting with McMullen for a 42-yard touchdown pass play. And with 12:15 remaining in the game, Virginia held a 38-31 lead.
The Wahoos expanded that to 45-31 later in the quarter, marching 65 yards in eight plays. Three runs by Jones got the march started, and five runs by backup tailback Tyree Foreman finished it off when Foreman scored form two yards out and with just 3:36 remaining in the game, Virginia ha d a14-point advantage.
Tech refused to quit, though, as Hamilton quickly marched the Jackets 67 yards in 7 plays for a touchdown, completing five passes on the march including an 8-yardwer to Watkins for the score with just 1:45 remaining in the game.
Tech’s ensuing onsides kick attempt was covered by Virginia Chris Luzar and the Cavaliers were able to run out the clock.
Hamilton finished the game with 282 yards of total offense, giving him 9,478 yards for his career, shattering the Atlantic Coast Conference and Georgia tech career standard set by Shawn Jones (9,296) during the 1989-92 seasons.
The loss dropped Tech to 6-2 over and 4-2 in the ACC, while Virginia improved to 5-4 overall and 4-3 in the league.