ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Tech relied on an unlikely formula to pull off its fourth straight victory.
A brilliant catch for its only pass completion of the game.
Four field goals from a freshman who wasn’t even the No. 1 kicker at the beginning of the season.
Wesley Wells booted a 40-yarder in overtime, the ball barely sliding through as it skimmed the right upright , and Virginia’s Brian Delaney missed his attempt from 35 yards to give the Yellow Jackets a 30-27 victory Saturday.
“Sometimes the nerves get to you a little bit,” Wells said. “It was a roller-coaster of emotions while the kick was up and the ball hitting the post and going in.”
Wells booted the longest field goal of his career from 48 yards to push Georgia Tech to a 27-24 lead with 1:04 remaining in regulation. The Cavaliers drove for the tying field goal, with Delaney connecting from 31 yards on a do-over with 1 second left after Virginia was flagged for a false start on his first attempt.
Neither team picked up a first down in overtime, so it came down to the kickers.
Wells made his attempt — “my first game-winner,” he said, even going back to high school.
Delaney hooked his badly , his head dropping as soon as his right foot connected with the ball.
The Yellow Jackets (7-4, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) clinched a winning season, quite a comeback from a 1-3 start.
Coach Paul Johnson credited his seniors, who were honored before their final game at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“They did a great job of keeping this team together,” Johnson said.
Virginia (7-4, 4-3) was eliminated from the ACC Coastal Division race before it even took the field. Pittsburgh clinched a spot in the league championship game with its 34-13 victory at Wake Forest.
Georgia Tech only compounded the Cavaliers’ misery.
“It hurts,” Virginia receiver Olamide Zaccheaus said. “This is real tough.”
Brad Stewart stretched out as far as he could to haul in Georgia Tech’s lone completion, a 37-yard pass from TaQuon Marshall on third down to set up Wells’ go-ahead kick near the end of regulation. Stewart escaped cornerback Bryce Hall with a double move, leaped for a ball that appeared overthrown, and managed to hang on while crashing to the turf.
“That was my last catch ever at Bobby Dodd,” Stewart said. “How crazy is that?”
Then Wells won it in overtime — not bad for a walk-on who only took over the kicking job after two other kickers failed to hold down the job.
Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins completed 21 of 26 passes for 217 yards, and also led the Cavaliers in rushing with 73 yards despite an injured left ankle that occurred when he was sacked for a safety in the first half. He was helped off the field by two teammates but missed only one series.
Marshall ran for 107 yards while completing 1 of 8 passes.
That one was enough.
While Perkins was out, freshman Brennan Armstrong guided the Cavaliers to a touchdown in only the third career appearance. He threw a short pass near the sideline to Joe Reed, who shook off a defender and raced for a 56-yard touchdown .
In the span of just 11 seconds, Georgia Tech turned an early 7-3 deficit into a 13-7 lead.
With Virginia backed up on its own 1 after a punt, Perkins took a snap in the end zone and rolled left to throw, only to be grabbed by Georgia Tech’s Brant Mitchell and finished off by 325-pound nose tackle Brandon Adams for a safety.
Making matters worse for the Cavaliers, Juanyeh Thomas returned the free kick 77 yards for a touchdown and Marshall ran for a 2-point conversion.
Virginia: A brutal loss for the Cavaliers, who not only surrendered a safety and a special teams touchdown but also botched a punt return when the ball hit a Cavaliers player in the back while he was trying to get out of the way. The Yellow Jackets recovered the fumble, leading to their only offensive touchdown . “The story line is special teams’ miscues,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
Georgia Tech: A gutsy performance by a team that seemed headed for a dismal season, but has now put itself in decent position when bowl invitations go out.
DEFENDING THE TRIPLE OPTION
Virginia limited the nation’s top rushing team to only a handful of big plays.
Georgia Tech had 268 yards on 52 carries — nearly 100 yards below its season average and only the fourth time this season the Jackets have been limited to fewer than 300 yards.
It was quite a contrast to the last time Virginia faced such an offense. In the 2017 Military Bowl, Navy ran for 452 yards and romped to a 49-7 victory.
Both teams close the regular season against their state rivals.
Georgia Tech makes the 70-mile trip to Athens next Saturday to take on No. 5 Georgia (10-1). The Yellow Jackets have won in their last two appearances at Sanford Stadium and hope to deliver another stunner against the playoff-contending Bulldogs.
The Cavaliers will hit the road for the second week in a row, facing Virginia Tech (4-6) on Friday in Blacksburg.
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