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Georgia Tech 33, Virginia 21: Three up, three down

It’s difficult to say whether Virginia’s loss Saturday seemed more like the one the Cavaliers suffered Sept. 11 at Southern California or the one they were dealt last weekend against Florida State.

On the one hand, Virginia kept the game close for most of the night. Even heading into the fourth quarter, it did not seem out of the question that the Cavaliers could stage a comeback. They were down 13 points, but they also kept getting opportunities to dig out of that hole. So in that sense, the game seemed reminiscent of the three-point loss to the Trojans.

But on the other hand, it was clear throughout the night that Virginia had little prayer of stopping Georgia Tech’s run game. The Yellow Jackets and their triple-option offense kept the Cavaliers guessing as they marched up and down the field. On offense, Virginia squandered many of their opportunities by failing to sustain drives on third down. So in that sense, the game seemed reminiscent of the 20-point loss to the Seminoles.

Either way, the result was another loss. And if it wasn’t clear to the Cavaliers before that making adjustments and correcting mistakes from week-to-week is difficult against 1-A opponents, it should be now. Virginia's defense allowed 477 rushing yards, and its offense went 3 for 12 on third downs. Georgia Tech won, 33-21.

"We’re a young team that’s just got to find its identity here a little bit," Coach Mike London said. "That’s the frustrating part about it a little bit. You know, you try to find who you are and what you are, who you can rely on and, you know, we’ve got to get those questions answered, for sure. And quickly."

Three Up:

1) Keith Payne. This is one tough dude to tackle. Payne rushed 14 times for 56 yards and two touchdowns Saturday against Georgia Tech. He averaged four yards per carry and was so effective running the ball that Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor was questioned afterwards about why he didn't go to Payne in more situations, particularly during the second half when Virginia squandered several potential scoring opportunities.

2) Darnell Carter. The junior reserve outside linebacker tallied just three tackles, but he made his presence felt in several other ways. With just more than five minutes remaining in the second quarter and Georgia Tech -- which trailed by one at that point -- driving deep into Virginia territory, Carter batted a Joshua Nesbitt pass attempt into the air and then caught it for his first career interception. In the fourth quarter, Carter lined up at fullback and plowed a path for Payne's second touchdown of the game from one yard out.

London on Carter's interception: "I thought it was a pretty athletic play. We need to find more opportunities to get him on the field, and we’re going to do that."

London on Carter as a fullback: "I’ll tell you what, he did a nice job down at the goal line, so he’s kind of a two-way player now, I guess, so to speak."

3) Matt Snyder. It has become clear that Snyder, a junior, is quickly establishing himself as the team's No. 3 wide receiver. Aside from being one of -- if not the -- best blocking wide receivers the Cavaliers have, Snyder also made a handful of quality receptions near the end of Saturday's game. In fact, three of Snyder's four catches were made on Virginia's final drive. Snyder caught passes of nine, 39 and 40 yards on that drive. He finished with a game-high 96 receiving yards.

Three Down:

1) Tackling. When poor tackling was an issue last week against Florida State, the coaches said not to worry. This hadn't been an issue for the team in the past, and it would be corrected with a heavy emphasis placed on proper form during practice. Well, so much for that. Virginia defenders missed a handful of tackles Saturday against Georgia Tech, and it still appeared as though the Cavaliers too often were simply lunging at ball-carriers. Yellow Jackets running back Anthony Allen and quarterback Joshua Nesbitt rushed for a combined 304 yards on 46 carries. Yikes.

2) Blocking. What was a key factor in Virginia converting on 3 of 12 third downs? According to London, it was poor pass protection by the offensive line. Virginia allowed four sacks Saturday to a Georgia Tech defense not known for its constant presence in opposing teams' backfields. The Cavaliers have given up 15 sacks on the season. And London said the fact that Georgia Tech was playing a 3-4 scheme had little to do with Virginia's blocking struggles.

"I don’t know if it was as much the scheme as it was just the guys having to react to what was happening in front of them," London said. "You’ve got to block guys. We knew they were going to be a two-gap defense. They did a good job using their hands and throwing our offensive linemen off. With the movement that they do, that kind of caused us a little bit of an issue. But when you line up, whether it’s a 3-4 or a 4-3 or whatever it is, you’ve got to block the fronts that you see."

3) Slow offensive starts. This was the second straight week the Cavaliers struggled offensively at a game's outset. Virginia registered 42 total yards and no points in the first half Oct. 2 against Florida State. The Cavaliers tallied 107 total yards and seven points in the first half Saturday. That Virginia trailed by only six points at halftime was as much a tribute to Georgia Tech's sporadic offensive miscues as anything else. At that point, Verica had competed 6 of 11 passes for 22 yards, and his longest completion was a 13-yard strike. Most of Virginia's early pass attempts were short and in the flats. Junior wideout Kris Burd -- the team's top receiver -- recorded one catch for three yards Saturday. Lazor said there wasn't anything specific that Georgia Tech did to take away the middle of the field.

"You can put that more on what I decided to call in the first half," Lazor said.

By Steve Yanda  | October 10, 2010; 1:53 AM ET
 
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