Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- They’re base triple-option plays -- Nos. 12 and 13 -- straight out of Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson’s playbook. And he ran them over and over again in the second half of the Jackets’ 34-9 win over Virginia, daring the Cavaliers to stop them.
Virginia, though, couldn’t even slow them down.
In an intermittent driving rain, Georgia Tech controlled the clock better than it has in the past two decades, and broke a streak of eight straight losses in Scott Stadium. With former coach Bobby Ross watching, the Jackets won for the first time here since 1990, which also happened to be the same year Ross led the program to the national title.
“We’ve had a lot of firsts this year,” said A-back Anthony Allen. “This had to be one of the biggest ones.”
As Johnson pointed out after the game, though, he has never lost at Virginia, and his first win here went a long way in the conference standings. Georgia Tech took the lead in the Coastal Division, but it could be fleeting. The Jackets would lose a tiebreaker to Miami because of the head-to-head result should both teams continue to win.
And that’s exactly what the schedule sets up for Georgia Tech to do. With only two more conference games remaining – against Wake Forest and at Duke – Georgia Tech’s toughest opponents are behind them.
Georgia Tech controlled the clock for 42 minutes and 43 seconds -- the Jackets’ longest possession time in at least 20 years. It started in the second half with an 18-play, 82-yard scoring drive that lasted 10:47, the longest scoring drive time in at least 21 years at Georgia Tech.
“It felt like were on the field the whole time,” said B-back Jonathan Dwyer. “That’s just the key to our offense, especially if we get the ball first, just to take time off the clock and give the defense the rest and pretty much just take over the whole third quarter.”
Virginia Tech suffered the same result a week ago. So did Florida State two weeks ago.
“That’s been the story of every team that’s played them,” said Virginia coach Al Groh. “Last week, their opponent had the ball for just 22 minutes. It’s those three players -- (Demaryius) Thomas, Dwyer and (Josh ) Nesbitt -- who have done a remarkable job of making that the case.”
The Jackets have made a habit out of handing off to Dwyer or Nesbitt keeping the ball in the third quarter as they wear down defenses and keep theirs fresh. It was the second time they’ve had two 100-yard rushers in the same game, as both Nesbitt and Allen broke tackle after tackle for a combined 228 yards. And for the second straight weekend, the defense was in lockdown mode. Virginia converted just 2 of 11 third downs, averaged 2.5 yards per rush, and was outgained by 249 total yards.
Virginia Tech, which has won three of the past five ACC championships, has controlled the Coastal Division, but the balance of power has started to shift now that Georgia Tech and Miami are leading the way in the BCS standings. While it wasn’t a win over a ranked, marquee opponent, it was still an important one in the conference race and the more these wins pile up, the greater the chances are the Jackets continue to push ahead in the BCS standings.
If there are any doubters remaining in this offense or this team, they certainly weren’t in the visiting locker room on Saturday, where bass voices boomed the Jackets’ fight song loud enough to come through the cement walls.
“They believe in themselves and what we are doing here,” Johnson said. “They’ve worked hard. When they come to play, they feel like they are going to win. Everyone keeps doubting them, and they keep coming back and trying to answer the call.”
Count Virginia in among the list of believers.