Tech closer to bowl berth, dismantles UVA 45-17

The Jackets offense gets into formation amidst a sunny afternoon in Scott Stadium. Tech blew the Cavaliers out, 45-17. / Photo by Matthew Kistner Student Publications

Tech football garnered national attention after their massive upset of then 17th-ranked North Carolina on Oct. 28; however, heading into their Nov. 4 matchup against a two-win Virginia Cavaliers team, Tech was a +1.5 underdog. Tech had been capable of knocking off ranked teams all season long, having toppled two ranked teams already, but had been unable to stay consistent week-to-week, falling to lesser opponents like Bowling Green and Boston College. Faced with an opportunity to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, head coach Brent Key brought his squad to Charlottesville, Virginia, poised and ready for a 2 p.m. ACC showdown on the road

The Jackets won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half, giving Virginia the first possession of the game. The Cavaliers progressed quickly to midfield on chunk plays, but the fifth play of the game saw redshirt senior defensive back Myles Sims rip a deep ball out of a Virginia receiver’s hands for Tech’s 16th forced turnover of the year and Sims’ first interception of the season. The Jackets went three-and-out following the turnover, however, and Virginia’s ensuing drive went 70 yards in eight plays for a methodical score against the Tech defense, putting the Jackets in an early and worrying 7-0 deficit.

Needing a response, redshirt sophomore running back Jamal Haynes and the Tech offense came off the bench fired up as Haynes ripped an 18-yard run to start the drive. Haynes and redshirt sophomore quarterback Haynes King guided the Tech offense into Virginia territory, where the drive would eventually stall at Virginia’s 24-yard line. Redshirt freshman kicker Aidan Birr trotted on to kick a 41-yard field goal, cutting Virginia’s lead to 7-3. 

Tech’s defense would force a missed field goal on the Cavalier’s next possession, and the offense would mount a long, methodical drive on the backs of Haynes and redshirt senior running back Dontae Smith. With the two backs alternating carries, the Jackets went on a 16-play, 69-yard touchdown drive to put Tech up 10-7 midway through the second quarter. Just three plays later, redshirt junior defensive back Kenan Johnson jarred the ball loose from Virginia’s quarterback, and redshirt senior defensive back Jaylon King shifted the momentum by scooping it up for the Jacket’s s second forced turnover of the game. 

A pair of punts ensued before Tech would mount another touchdown drive. After four straight passes to get the ball to the Virginia 34-yard line, Haynes King broke loose on a read option run and carried the ball to the endzone for the score, putting the Jackets up 17-7 with just over two minutes to go in the first half. Tech’s defense rose up and forced a Cavalier three-and-out to give the offense one more shot at points before halftime. King would have a 29-yard run to get into Virginia territory early in the drive, which set up Smith for a 33-yard touchdown scamper, putting the Jackets firmly  in command up  24-7.

Virginia would add  a quick field goal to send Tech into the locker room with a 24-10 lead. Receiving the opening kickoff of the second half, the Jackets looked to have lost no rhythm as King guided the team to the Tech 42-yard line, where he launched a 58-yard bomb to freshman wide receiver Eric Singleton Jr. for a touchdown. The score was Singleton’s sixth of the year, vaulting him to third all-time in touchdowns for a Tech receiver in their freshman season, just one score behind Calvin Johnson’s seven touchdowns in his inagural season with Tech.

Up 31-10, the Jackets defense held Virginia to two straight three-and-outs, but the offense stalled out. After the defense turned the Cavaliers over on downs, the Jackets mounted a strong five-play, 61-yard touchdown drive. Smith capped off the drive by bulldozing several would-be tacklers on a nine-yard touchdown run, blowing the game open for Tech at 38-10 with just over 10 minutes to play and protect their large lead.

Virginia responded with a 75-yard drive to score a touchdown for the first time since the first quarter, but it was all too little, too late. King silenced all unrealistic comeback hopes after he broke through a huge hole, gliding for a 43-yard touchdown that put the game on ice. The Jackets would coast for the thoroughly dominant  45-17 ACC victory.

The 28-point victory is Tech’s greatest margin of victory over the Cavaliers ever in Charlottesville and largest margin over an ACC opponent since beating Louisville by 35 in 2018. King led the charge, going 23-for-30 with 208 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 83 yards on seven carries with two scores. Haynes King led the rushing attack on 119 yards with 17 attempts and a touchdown; Smith accounted for two of the scores on 15 carries with 78 yards. Singleton was King’s favorite target — the deep threat led the offensive charge with 80 yards and a touchdown on five receptions.

The Jackets now move to 5-4 on the season, crossing the .500 mark for the first time since 2020 with multi-game wins for the first time since 2018 and capturing their second straight ACC win. With three games remaining, Tech has already matched last year’s win total and needs one more victory for their first bowl berth since 2010. The Jackets, at third in the ACC standings, go back on the road to take on a formidable ACC rival in the Clemson Tigers, who they have not beaten since 2014, at 12 p.m. on Nov. 11 in Memorial Stadium in Clemson, SC.