Colandrea 👉 Rawlings!
UVA up 7-0 w/ 8:30 remaining in 1st!
— Virginia Football (@UVAFootball) November 4, 2023
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — After putting together a string of solid performances, the University of Virginia football team was looking to start the final month of the regular season on a positive note Saturday. Instead, the Cavaliers took a step backward.
Against ACC rival Georgia Tech, Virginia lost its starting quarterback, Tony Muskett, on its fifth play from scrimmage. By the end of the first half, two other prominent UVA players—tailback Mike Hollins and linebacker Kam Robinson—had suffered injuries that also knocked them out of the game.
With Muskett on the sideline, the Wahoos scored the game’s first points, on a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Anthony Colandrea to tight end Josh Rawlings, but the home fans in the crowd of 42,606 had little else to cheer on a spectacular fall afternoon.
The Yellow Jackets dominated the rest of the game. They led 24-10 at halftime and left Charlottesville with a 45-17 victory that ended their three-game losing streak in the series.
“It’s on me,” said UVA’s second-year coach, Tony Elliott. “I did not do a great job of having this football team prepared and ready to play at a high level. It’s kind of the tale of football, how momentum can swing and how things in the game can change quickly, and we weren’t able to capture the momentum once it changed. For a little while we were going back and forth and it was competitive football, and then we started making some critical mistakes, and then they found some answers and made some adjustments that we could not adjust back to.”
Virginia fell to 2-7 overall and 1-4 in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets (5-4, 2-2) were coming off a win over North Carolina in which they finished with 635 yards of total offense, and they were nearly as productive against the Hoos.
Georgia Tech totaled 514 yards Saturday, including 305 on the ground. Of the Jackets’ six touchdowns, four came on plays of 33 yards or longer.
“They got after my tail here today,” UVA defensive coordinator John Rudzinski said. “I’ll be the first one to say that. I take full responsibility for our performance. I gotta do a better job as far as putting our guys in position.”
On a day when Virginia forced no turnovers, Georgia Tech came up with three takeaways. The first, an interception, came on the first-quarter play on which Muskett suffered an apparent high-ankle sprain.
The second came midway through the second quarter. On a third-and-1 run, Colandrea picked up the first down but then fumbled the ball, and the Jackets recovered.
“I just gotta protect the ball,” Colandrea said after his first appearance since Sept. 22.
A true freshman from St. Petersburg, Fla., Colandrea took over in the season opener after Muskett suffered a shoulder injury and then started the Cavaliers’ next three games. Muskett returned on Sept. 30 to face Boston College, and the coaching staff hoped to retain a redshirt year for Colandrea.
Those plans changed Saturday, though, when it became clear that Muskett couldn’t return to the game. Colandrea finished 21-for-37 passing for 200 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted once.
“He made some mistakes that he’ll learn from, get better from, and move forward,” Elliott said. “So I’m not going to say that it’s on Colandrea, because it’s a collective effort, starting with me all the way through everybody. We got to do a better job of preparing to the standard so that we can play to standard.”
Hollins, who rushed for two touchdowns last weekend in UVA’s overtime loss to ACC foe Miami, carried five times for 25 yards Saturday before leaving the game with a neck injury. Elliott didn’t have any updates on Hollins or Robinson, a true freshman who hurt his knee early in the second quarter and didn’t return.
On the final play of the first half, Will Bettridge’s 39-yard field goal cut UVA’s deficit to 14 points. The Jackets scored a touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter, however, and were never seriously threatened thereafter.
Colandrea threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tailback Kobe Pace with 8:47 remaining, and Bettridge’s extra point make it 38-17. But Georgia Tech needed only two plays to stretch its lead back to 28 points.
That’s how things went Saturday for Virginia’s defense, but “as frustrating as that is, we don’t have any time to point fingers, we don’t have any time to blame anybody,” said junior safety Jonas Sanker, who finished with a team-high 10 tackles.
“Georgia Tech didn’t run against one player for however many yards they ran for. They ran against our defense, they ran against UVA. Whatever it takes, we’re gonna do it. So we’re gonna come back next week and we’re going to correct the things we messed up.”
Virginia’s offensive line didn’t have one of its finest games, either.
“Early on, I thought they were doing a good job,” Elliott said. “Early on, we were having some success running the ball, and then as the game went on, you become a little bit one-dimensional. And when you become one-dimensional, it’s heavy pass. And when the D-line knows it’s heavy pass and they can screw their cleats in the ground and get a jump, it makes it tough on you.
“But we’ll go back to work, and I know those guys have got a lot of pride and they’ve shown the resilience that they have and we’ll own our mistakes. We’re not gonna run from them. We’re gonna own our mistakes. We got what we earned today, and we didn’t put our best foot forward.”
Washington, a graduate transfer from Northwestern, has 79 catches for 1,044 yards and six touchdowns this season. He’s the sixth player in program history to total at least 1,000 yards, and he’s the fastest (nine games) to reach that mark.
“I’ve tried my best to deliver,” Washington said. “I think I still haven’t played my best, and I’ve gotta be able to put together my best game, whether that’s catching the ball, blocking or whatever the case may be.”
QUICK TURNAROUND: Virginia plays its final road game Thursday in Louisville, Ky. In a 7:30 p.m. game to air on ESPN, UVA (2-7, 1-4) meets No. 15 Louisville (8-1, 5-1) at L&N Federal Credit Union Stadium.
The Cardinals routed hosted Virginia Tech 34-3 on Saturday.
UVA is 5-6 all-time against Louisville, which won 34-17 at Scott Stadium last season. In the Cavaliers’ most recent game at Louisville, they rallied for a 34-33 victory.
Virginia Team Notes
- Virginia’s three-game win streak against Georgia Tech was snapped. The all-time series is tied at 22-22-1.
- The 28-point victory was the largest margin by either team in the series against Georgia Tech since 2012 (GT, won 56-20).
- Virginia led 7-3 after the first quarter and has held a lead of at least seven points in six of its nine games this season.
- Georgia Tech scored 21 points in the second quarter, tied for the most by an opponent this season (Maryland scored 21 in 4th quarter).
- The Virginia defense recorded a season-high, eight tackles for loss in the contest. The most in a game since 10 tackles for loss, including eight sacks, against the Yellow Jackets in last year’s meeting.
- UVA allowed a season-high, 514 yards of total offense including 305 on the ground. The Yellow Jackets recorded 200 of its rushing yards on nine plays.
- The 305 rushing yards were the most by an opponent since 385 against BYU in 2021. The 500 yards of total offense were the most by an opponent since Pitt in 2021 (514).
- Three different players (Tony Muskett, Grady Brosterhous and Anthony Colandrea) completed a pass in the contest, the most in a game since 2020 against Abeline Christian (Brennan Armstrong, Lindell Stone and Keytoan Thompson).
- Malik Washington caught 11 passes for 109 yards, his fourth-straight 100-yard game. He is the first player in school history to record four consecutive 100-yard receiving games.
- Washington became the sixth player in UVA history to go over the 1,000-yard receiving mark and is the fastest Virginia player (nine games) with 1,000 receiving yards. UVA’s other 1000-yard receivers include: Dontayvion Wicks (1,203 in 2021), Herman Moore (1,190 in 1990), Hasise Dubois (1,062 in 2019), Billy McMullen (1,060 in 2001) and Olamide Zaccheaus (1,058 in 2018).
- Washington has recorded double-digit receptions in three-straight games (12 vs. North Carolina and 12 vs. Miami) and has caught a pass in 34-straight games dating back to his time at Northwestern.
- For the season, Washington has 1,044 yards, 14 yards behind Olamide Zaccheaus for the fifth most in a single season in UVA history. His 79 receptions on the year are the fourth-most in a single season in program history.
- Washington accounted for 170 all-purpose yards which included a career-high, 40-yard kick return.
- Brosterhous completed his first collegiate pass, a 21-yard completion to Malik Washington in the first quarter.
- Josh Rawlings hauled in his first career touchdown catch to give UVA the initial 7-0 lead. The reception was his second of his career.
- Ben Smiley recorded UVA’s lone sack in the contest, it was his second of the season and now has 3.5 sacks in his career.
- Jonas Sanker led the Cavaliers in tackles with 10 (five solo). It was his second double-digit tackle effort of the season. He now has 79 tackles on the year, the most on the team.
- Kobe Pace caught his third touchdown of the season. He has 14 career touchdowns (10 rush, 4 rec).