Jackets, Johnson Stomp Cavaliers

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Jameel Sewell has played six straight quarters for Virginia.

The Virginia football team suffered another stinging loss Thursday night. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, it wasn’t just because that’s a clever pun when playing the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. UVa’s offense continued to sputter, penalties and turnovers remained a concern, and the defense gave up two big plays. The result was another disheartening loss as GT rolled 24-7 in the ACC opener for both teams.

“We still see some of the same things reoccurring. We give up deep balls in the secondary that dramatically change the game. We give up unnecessary before-the-snap penalties, which puts you behind the eight ball with a young quarterback,” Virginia coach Al Groh said in his postgame press conference. “We need people to step up and make some plays or the script continues to remain the same. There have to be some guys that make the change. You can’t go on the waiver wire.”

The game can be summed up in a nutshell – two touchdown receptions by Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson outdistanced the Cavaliers’ entire passing offense. For Johnson, it ended two years of frustration against Virginia; he had never scored against the Cavaliers in his career.

The two catches were the two longest TD grabs of Johnson’s career as he totaled 124 yards receiving. Virginia finished with 115 yards passing as GT made it rough on first-time starter Jameel Sewell .

But as much as the yardage hurt on Johnson’s scoring plays, the timing of the TD grabs was worse. The receptions came on back-to-back possessions and broke open a game that was still close on the scoreboard with the hosts leading 10-0 late in the second quarter.

The first ended the opening half with a bang as Johnson beat safety Jamaal Jackson down the middle of the field; that 58-yard touchdown made the score 17-0 at intermission and all but ended the Cavs’ chances (More on this play in this week’s “The Turning Point.”).

The second touchdown strike started the third quarter with a statement – Johnson proved why he deserved preseason ACC Player of the Year honors when he beat All-ACC corner Marcus Hamilton with a stutter step move. The safety help from Tony Franklin came late and when he over ran the tackle, Johnson was off to the races. That 66-yard TD gave GT a commanding 24-0 lead.

Johnson finished with 165 yards on six catches, leaving him one yard short of matching the Cavaliers’ entire offensive output.

“I don’t make comparisons, I just know he’s a real good player. He has been ever since he’s been in this league and I’m sure he’ll continue to be as long as he’s in this league – hopefully, that’s not too long,” Groh said. “Give him credit. He made the plays. He just ran down the field. It’s not like it was a complex pattern, he just ran straight down the field. He certainly did a much better job executing his pattern than our people in the secondary did of executing the coverage.”

While Johnson was off and running, the Virginia offense remained bogged down behind the struggles of the offensive line. In addition to limited passing success (115 yards, 1 TD), the Hoos could not produce on the ground either. UVa recorded 51 yards on 23 carries, good for just 2.2 yards per attempt.

In total, the Cavaliers had just 166 yards of total offense, a number offset by 60 yards worth of penalties. To add insult to injury, Sewell threw two late interceptions. Add in Michael Johnson’s fumble (the first lost fumble of the year for the Hoos) and the visitors closed the game with three straight turnovers.

Kevin Ogletree now has two touchdowns this season.

The lone scoring play of the night for the Cavs came off of a Georgia Tech turnover. The Yellow Jackets fumbled at the end of the third quarter and Jermaine Dias recovered to give Virginia good field position at the GT 29-yard line. It took a fourth-down conversion, but the Cavaliers did get in the end zone when Sewell completed a fourth-and-nine pass to Kevin Ogletree for the score.

The play covered 16 yards – it was Sewell’s first career TD pass and Ogletree’s second career TD reception.

“You can see it on his best ball … he throws a real good-looking ball. It’s got good rotation on it, it’s got good distance on it – he throws the kind of ball that guys have to be able to throw,” Groh said of Sewell’s performance in his first start. “He showed a little bit of elusiveness in the pocket, something certainly that the quarterback on this team right now needs to have. Overall, I don’t want to say it was a positive start because quarterbacks are always judged on getting their team home winning, but it certainly got the process started. Frankly, we knew at some point in time this was what it was going to come to and now we’re there.”

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