Big plays lead Georgia Tech to 31-17 win over Virginia

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ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Tech was a bit listless after its upset of Virginia Tech.

Fortunately for the Yellow Jackets, they came up with enough big plays to beat Virginia.

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 the Cavaliers on Saturday.

As if that wasn’t enough, Lance Austin sealed the win with a dazzling 24-yard interception return for a touchdown, showing off several nifty moves.

“It took us a while get going,” Marshall said.

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) couldn’t hold on with Matt Johns starting at quarterback for the first time this season. He was 27 of 44 for 220 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown to Ryan Santoro that cut the gap to 24-17 with 7:18 remaining. But Johns also had three interceptions in the second half, including the pick by Austin that finished off Virginia.

“He played well for a long, long time,” Mendenhall said of Johns, who reclaimed the starting job he held last season. “He did the best he could.”

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 in his final game at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“I have a lot of great memories in this stadium,” the senior quarterback said. “We did a lot of great things in our careers. It was a great moment.”

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: The triple-option offense had all sorts of blocking breakdowns, most notably when coach Paul Johnson decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 29. Backup quarterback Matthew Jordan was stuffed for no gain on a play, and Johnson griped that his team missed all three of its key blocks. But the Yellow Jackets avoided the sort of upset that would’ve really turned up the heat on Johnson, whose job security has been questioned with a new athletic director coming aboard.

FIELD GOAL WOES

Virginia has another tough day in the kicking game.

Sam Hayward missed from 31 and 42 yards, though he did manage to connect from 30 yards. That leaves him 3 of 7 for the season and the Cavaliers at 4 of 9 overall. They haven’t made a kick longer than 36 yards.

TOUGH DAY

Georgia Tech’s Brad Stewart dropped what like a sure touchdown pass in the third quarter, getting some 10 yards behind the secondary but bobbling away a throw that hit him right in stride.

It only got worse for the sophomore receiver. Later in the period, he sustained what appeared to be a potentially serious left knee injury while returning a punt. Stewart had to be helped off the field and didn’t return.

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.

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.

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