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Nov. 20, 2004

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AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia Tech’s Reggie Ball kept throwing toward the end zone. VIRGINIA’s Marcus Hamilton kept getting in the way.

Maybe now Hamilton will get his starting job back.

Hamilton intercepted two passes in the end zone and No. 18 VIRGINIA came up with two more key turnovers, pulling away in the second half to beat Georgia Tech 30-10 on Saturday.

Alvin Pearman scored a pair of touchdowns for the Cavaliers, who kept alive their hopes of sharing the Atlantic Coast Conference title. VIRGINIA (8-2, 5-2) is still a longshot to claim the league’s spot in the Bowl Championship Series.

Hamilton started the first seven games at cornerback before getting demoted. He came up with the biggest play in this game, picking off a pass midway through the third quarter with VIRGINIA clinging to a 10-3 lead.

Georgia Tech (6-4, 4-4) had a first down at the Cavaliers 33 when Ball threw toward Calvin Johnson. But Hamilton read the play all the way, dropping back to pick the ball off at the edge of the end zone.

“I prepare like I’m starting every game,” he said. “I try to get interceptions. Tackles are good, but I like interceptions better.”

Hamilton picked off another one in the fourth quarter, ending any thoughts of a comeback by the Yellow Jackets.

“The pressure the front put on was amazing,” he said. “(Ball) had to think fast. You can’t throw accurately when you have to think fast.”

Pearman scored VIRGINIA’s first touchdown on a 6-yard run late in the first quarter, and he buried the Yellow Jackets with a 1-yard plunge in the opening minute of the fourth. Pearman set up his second TD by going 45 yards with a short pass, getting knocked out of bounds just shy of the end zone.

Georgia Tech had hoped to improve its bowl position before next week’s regular-season finale against No. 11 Georgia. Now, the Yellow Jackets are likely to get sent out West to a lower-tier game for the fourth year in a row.

“We wanted to play in the best bowl possible,” linebacker Gerris Wilkinson said. “This loss definitely hurts our chances of being in the best bowl.”

Ball also had a fumble to go along with his two interceptions, extending a discouraging pattern for the sophomore quarterback. He hasn’t shown any consistency, following up a career-best 288 yards passing last week with another turnover-plagued performance.

Ball got a little testy when the discussion turned toward his erratic play.

“What do you expect?” he said. “We play in the toughest conference in the country. We probably have the hardest schedule in the country.”

His first point was highly debatable. His second point was downright laughable. The Yellow Jackets have only four opponents currently ranked in the Top 25.

The Cavaliers quickly regained control after Hamilton’s first interception, driving 80 yards for a touchdown. Wali Lundy scored on a 32-yard run, bouncing outside and racing down the sideline for a 17-3 lead.

“Momentum turned around,” Hamilton said, “and they never got it back.”

On the ensuing kickoff, Levon Thomas fumbled and Brandon Isaiah recovered for the Cavaliers at the 12, setting up Connor Hughes’ 27-yard field goal.

Hughes also connected from 33 and 43 yards.

VIRGINIA followed its normal pattern for victory. Ranked fifth nationally with only eight turnovers, the Cavaliers didn’t have any fumbles or interceptions. Also, the ACC’s top rushing team finished with 207 yards on the ground.

“They wear you down a little,” Georgia Tech defensive end Travis Parker conceded.

Meanwhile, VIRGINIA scored after all four of Georgia Tech’s turnovers, beginning in the opening period when Ball was stripped by Kai Parham, who then fell on the ball at the Cavaliers 43.

VIRGINIA quickly drove for Pearman’s first touchdown. A roughing-the-quarterback penalty on Eric Henderson helped move the drive along.

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