Virginia, seeking its first home ACC win since 2021, is 2-point favorite over Jackets

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

The message was simple and clear. First thing Monday morning, when Virginia’s football team entered the facility, before Tony Elliott said a word, the Cavaliers were issued their mission for the week.

First ACC win at home.

It’s a key box on UVA’s resume that has gone unchecked, and Elliott wants to do something about it this weekend when Georgia Tech comes to town (2 p.m. Saturday, The CW Network) for an ACC showdown. The Wahoos are a 2-point favorite over the (4-4, 3-2) Yellow Jackets.

“If we’re going to take the next step as a program, then you’ve got to start with defending your home turf, especially when you have your fans, your crowd and you’re used to the environment,” Elliott said Tuesday at his weekly presser. “You know the routine inside and out in terms of the preparation process.

“You’ve got to defend your home turf. It’s a big point of emphasis and one of the things that was put in front of them from the opening meeting.”

Georgia Tech, which has won only twice in Charlottesville since the famous 1990 showdown when the Jackets knocked off No. 1 Virginia, is only the second ACC opponent to play at Scott Stadium thus far this season.

UVA lost a squeaker to NC State, 24-21, in late September. That was one of four games the Cavaliers have lost by three points or less this season, including last Saturday’s 29-26 overtime defeat at Miami.

The Yellow Jackets, who stormed back in the fourth quarter in Atlanta on Saturday night to hand North Carolina its second-straight upset in as many weeks, beat the Tar Heels, 46-42, piling up 635 yards of offense over UNC.

Virginia stunned Carolina the week before with a 31-27 upset over the then-No. 10-ranked Heels. It was UVA’s first road win over a top-10 team since national rankings were created in the late 1930s.

While many may have overlooked the Cavaliers this season, Georgia Tech coach Brent Key is not one of them. Key has closely looked at UVA the past two weeks, first by researching how Virginia beat UNC, then preparing for the Cavaliers this week.

“There’s a lot of confidence [by Virginia] and that’s very evident when you watch the film,” Key said Tuesday. “Having played Carolina last week, we had the crossover film, so this is two straight weeks that we’ve seen [UVA], and seeing the improvement they’ve made. It’s like anything, it’s a confidence level they’re playing with.”

Key pointed out the Cavaliers’ close losses this season — four games by a collective 10 points — and how UVA had double-digit leads in three of those games but couldn’t hold on.

“So who does that sound like?” Key asked. “I mean, you’re talking like this is a carbon copy … that two plays here, three plays there in any given game and records could be completely different.”

Some observers have said Georgia Tech could be 7-1 or 2-6 instead of 4-4 because of those few plays Key mentioned.

“Records don’t mean anything … they mean absolute zero in November,” Key said. “Absolutely zero when you turn on the tape, and that’s the challenge to the team and coaching staff. Unless you’re sitting down and watching the tape and seeing what a team is and what your opponent is, there should be no judgment about who should win and who shouldn’t win.”