Eight years ago, Georgia Tech and Virginia played one of the great games in college football history.
On Saturday, they replayed it.
Dez White capped a record-breaking game by taking a short pass for a 54-yard touchdown with 4:40 remaining Saturday, giving No. 25 Georgia Tech a stunning 41-38 victory over seventh-ranked Virginia.
"That score sounds familiar," Tech coach George O'Leary deadpanned.
O'Leary was defensive coordinator for the Yellow Jackets in 1990 when they beat the Cavaliers by the same 41-38 score, knocking Virginia from its No. 1 ranking while Tech went on to claim a share of the national title.
The parallels between the two games are eerie. In 1990, Virginia raced to a 28-14 halftime lead and finished with 512 yards against the Yellow Jackets. This time, the Cavs led 38-17 five minutes into the third quarter and finished with a staggering 600 yards.
It wasn't enough in either game.
"I never felt comfortable," Virginia coach George Welsh said after the latest setback. "They have a lot of pride. You have to give them credit. They weren't going to let us keep doing what we were doing on offense."
| Virginia's Thomas Joneis held out of the end zone as he dives over a pile of Georgia Tech defenders. (AP) |
While another national title is a farfetched goal for the Yellow Jackets (5-1, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), they can take another major step toward the ACC championship with a victory over No. 6 Florida State next Saturday.
White scored on three of his six pass receptions, which covered 243 yards to break the school record of 223 set last year by Derrick Steagall, also against Virginia.
"I had some great blockers downfield," White said. "All I had to do was run."
On a day which produced one big play after another, the last belonged to the maligned Yellow Jackets' defense. With Virginia moving into position for a tying field goal at the Tech 25, Nate Stimson wrapped up Aaron Brooks for an apparent sack.
Brooks flipped the ball away before going down and was penalized for intentional grounding. The 5-yard penalty left the Cavs with fourth-and-23 at the 37, forcing Todd Braverman to attempt a 54-yarder with 27 seconds remaining.
The kick sailed about 2 feet under the crossbar, Tech ran out the clock on the next play and the student body swarmed onto the field, tearing down the goalposts at both ends of the field.
That had not happened since -- you guessed it -- 1990, when the students broke into Bobby Dodd Stadium to celebrate after Tech's victory at Virginia.
The Cavs (5-1, 3-1) had little trouble most of the game against the Tech defense. Thomas Jones rushed for 207 yards, Brooks was 19-of-32 for 312 yards and Terrence Wilkins had seven receptions for 131 yards.
But it wasn't enough against the plucky Yellow Jackets, who seemed to be out of the game after Jones broke loose for a 65-yard touchdown run on a draw play just five minutes into the second half, giving Virginia its 38-17 lead.
The comeback began with three minutes remaining in the third period. Brooks was wrapped up 24 yards behind the line of scrimmage by Stimson and lost the ball; Delaunta Cameron scooped it up and ran 34 yards the other way for a Yellows Jackets touchdown.
It was the fifth fumble that Tech has returned for a defensive score this season, an NCAA record.
"It's all what I did," Brooks said. "I had a fumble they returned for a touchdown. I had a sack on the last play. I take the blame."
The game started like it was going to be a Virginia blowout. The Yellow Jackets had turnovers their first two possessions, and the Cavaliers cashed in both to grab a 14-0 lead less than eight minutes into the game. Jones scored on a 2-yard run and -- just 30 seconds later -- Wilkins caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Brooks.
After Virginia built the margin to 21-3 on Brooks' 1-yard run, Joe Hamilton hooked up with White on the first of their three long touchdown passes, a 69-yarder early in the second quarter.
Charlie Rogers made it 24-17 with a 54-yard punt return, but the Cavheld a 31-17 lead at the half following Anthony Southern's 1-yard touchdown run.
Cameron's TD and a 47-yard field goal by Brad Chambers pulled Tech to 38-27 five seconds into the fourth quarter.
With the Tech defense finally slowing the Cavaliers, Hamilton found White for a 35-yard touchdown pass with 8:13 remaining. A 2-point conversion failed, but Tech trailed only 38-33.
Virginia had a chance to burn some clock, but Jones was stopped short by Justin Robertson on a third-down play when the Cavs needed just an inch for a first down.
Tech got the ball back on a punt and began the winning drive. On third-and-7 from the 46, Hamilton hit White on a short pass across the middle. The speedy sophomore ran to the right sideline, turned the corner and beat the defense to the end zone.
Hamilton was hobbled by a sprained right knee, sustained on the first touchdown pass when he was sandwiched by two Virginia players a split-second after making the throw.
Hamilton sat out one series but returned to the field with his knee heavily taped. He was only 11-of-23 passing but had 288 yards - an average of 26.2 yards per completion.
"He's a tough kid," O'Leary said. "My only concern was that if we didn't get the game back in hand, I didn't want to see him getting beat up out there. But he said, `Coach, I can run.' He's a competitor and there's no question that you want to see him out there."
It was the fifth consecutive game that Tech has scored at least 41 points. The Yellow Jackets are averaging 40.8 points per game.
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved