ATLANTA (AP) — Cedric Peerman rushed for 118 bruising yards, including the winning touchdown with 3½ minutes left, and Virginia won its fourth straight with a 24-17 upset of No. 21 Georgia Tech on Saturday.
The Cavaliers rallied from an early 14-3 deficit in their comeback of a season, improbably taking over first place in the Coastal Division after losing three of their first four games — by an average of 36 points.
Georgia Tech (6-2, 3-2 ACC) was off to its best start since 1990 and looked unstoppable on its first two possessions, scoring a pair of touchdowns. But the Cavaliers (5-3, 3-1) figured out the spread option offense, keeping the Yellow Jackets out of the end zone the rest of the way.
After Scott Blair kicked a 39-yard field goal to tie the game at 17, Virginia drove 70 yards in eight plays. Peerman got loose on a 31-yard run and finished it off with a 3-yard touchdown, lunging for the pylon with 3:29 remaining to end Georgia Tech's four-game winning streak.
The Yellow Jackets had one more chance, and a questionable spot gave them a first down near midfield. But Vic Hall clinched victory by picking off Josh Nesbitt's pass at the Virginia 43 with 1:18 to go.
Marc Verica completed 29-of-39 for 270 yards and two touchdowns, overcoming two first-half interceptions. He hit Kevin Ogletree for a 14-yard score early in the second quarter to slice into Georgia Tech's lead, then connected with Maurice Covington on a 34-yard TD over the middle to put Virginia up less than 5 minutes into the third.
Nesbitt dove in from the 1 for the Yellow Jackets' first score, but the sophomore quarterback had two other crucial turnovers in the second half — a pair of fumbles on Virginia's side of the field.
The most damaging came with Georgia Tech facing second-and-goal at the Cavaliers 5. Nesbitt tried to fake a handoff to Jonathan Dwyer going up the middle, but the ball came loose as the QB tried to pull it back to run himself. Denzel Burrell pounced on it for Virginia at the 7.
The Cavaliers went 53 yards in 11 plays on the game's opening possession, settling for Yannick Reyering's 25-yard field goal.
With wingback Roddy Jones breaking off runs of 13, 13 and 10 yards, Georgia Tech quickly seized the momentum on its first drive. Nesbitt tumbled into the end zone from the 1 for his sixth touchdown of the season.
Virginia was driving again when Verica was intercepted by Morgan Burnett, the sophomore safety grabbing his sixth pick of the year. He came into the game tied for the nation's lead in that category.
Georgia Tech needed only two plays to score again. Nesbitt went to Demaryius Thomas for a 42-yard pass, and Dwyer burrowed in for a 3-yard touchdown.
But the Yellow Jackets, after accounting for 118 yards on its first drives, managed only 141 the rest of the game. Virginia held a huge lead in total yards, 396-259.
In addition to clearing holes for Peerman, the Virginia offensive line held off a team that was tied for the ACC lead in sacks. Georgia Tech finally got to Verica when Michael Johnson swiped the ball away and Derrick Morgan recovered the fumble, setting up Blair's tying kick in the fourth quarter.