Virginia came out of the Penn State game not only with a mostly undeserved victory, but with key injuries that could tilt the outcome with Georgia Tech this afternoon.
So much was made of Penn State's kicker—who missed four field goal attempts and had an extra point blocked—that few were prepared for the injury list when it came out this week for the Cavaliers.
Offensive lineman Cody Wallace was expected, considering he missed last week's game, but his absence is also the most costly.
Virginia's running game fell apart last week, only amassing 32 yards—which was the lowest total by far in coach Mike London's tenure. Some of that has to be credited to Penn State's defense, and some of the blame must go to the running backs themselves, but far too many times the holes were just not appearing.
By moving around the line to allow Morgan Moses and Anthony Mihota to play, the continuity of years past has been skewed. Add an injury to that mix and the line looks to be a bit lost.
Virginia's best chance at victory in Atlanta today is simple, because it is almost exactly the same as Georgia Tech's: They need to control the ball, run out the clock and try to wear down Al Groh's defense that has only 13 players in the rotation.
That offense will also be hampered by the injury to starting wide receiver Tim Smith. The "lower extremity" injury has him listed at doubtful.
Smith has been one of the more sure-handed receivers on the squad and broke the game open last year against the Yellow Jackets with a perfect go-route to give the Cavaliers an early lead.
Without him, Virginia will need to rely on more unproven receivers in a hostile road environment.
On defense, the absence of Bill Schautz could also prove critical. One of the most aggressive and tenacious players on D, Schautz has proven his ability to finish tackles better than almost anyone on the squad.
However, with his playing time being limited as well, Virginia will have to improve upon its sloppiness last week against Penn State. Missed tackles lead to big plays against Georgia Tech's option offense.
The final injury is to tight end Paul Freedman, an almost forgotten figure since the emergence of Jake McGee.
Fans will probably get to see more McGee this afternoon and Georgia Tech will obviously have their eye on him as well.
Playing on the road is never an easy task. Last time Virginia rolled into town, they were steamrolled by the Yellow Jacket rushing attack.
This was going to be a difficult task beforehand, but will these injuries keep victory out of reach?
Virginia will need to rally around its playmakers and try to recapture the magic of last season. They need to exorcise some of those bad habits that re-emerged against the Nittany Lions.
Otherwise, this season could get away from them quickly.
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