King, Smith power Georgia Tech in 45-17 victory at Virginia

Georgia Tech running back Jamal Haynes (11) is tackled by Virginia cornerback Dave Herard, bottom, linebacker Josh McCarron, top right, and cornerback Sam Westfall, bottom right, during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/Mike Caudill) (Mike Caudill, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Haynes King ran for two touchdowns and threw for another and Dontae Smith ran for two more scores and Georgia Tech beat Virginia 45-17 on Saturday.

The Yellow Jackets (5-4, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their second game in a row, ending a season-long pattern of alternating wins and losses, and moved within a victory of qualifying for a bowl game. Their win total is their best in the last five seasons.

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Coach Brent Key was especially pleased that the victory came a week after his team rallied to beat then No. 17 North Carolina 46-42. Earlier this year, the Yellow Jackets beat No. 17 Miami, then lost the following week to Boston College,

“I thought it was important that we were able to put one game behind us, prepare the way you’re supposed to prepare, but also have the mindset the right way to be able to play for four quarters. And I thought that’s what the guys did,” he said.

Virginia (2-7, 1-4) lost starting quarterback Tony Muskett on the fifth play of the game when he was hit hard as he released a deep pass that cornerback Myles Sims took away from intended receiver Malachi Fields.

The Yellow Jackets trailed 7-3 before King scored on a 2-yard run with 8:42 left in the second quarter. He added a 34-yard scoring burst with 2:24 left in the half and Smith broke off a 33-yard run on a third-and-14 play 28 seconds before halftime.

Key said he was playing for a field goal before Smith broke the long run.

King hit Eric Singleton Jr. for a 58-yard TD on the opening series of the second half, and Smith bulled through the defense for a 10-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. Jamal Haynes added a 43-yard scoring run midway through the fourth quarter as the Yellow Jackets piled up 514 yards a week after having 635 — its most in an ACC game — in the victory over the Tar Heels.

Georgia Tech had 305 yards rushing.

“We know with the running game comes the perimeter game, the perimeter screens, the passing game, you know, some of the shot plays,” Key said. “All in all it opens up everything. And I think it allows the quarterback to sit back and really do what he does best. And that’s, you know, be the coach on the field, manage the game, put the ball where it needs to be and run the offense.”

King finished 23 for 30 for 208 yards and gained 83 more on seven runs. Haynes finished with 119 yards on 17 carries and Smith had 78 on 15 carries.

Freshman Anthony Colandrea, who replaced Muskett, threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Rawlings and an 8-yard scoring pass to Kobe Pace, but he also lost a fumble, threw an interception and had another nullified by a penalty.

Cavaliers coach Tony Elliott said he took the blame for the loss.

“For a little while, we were going back and forth and it was competitive football,” he said. “And then we started making some critical mistakes and they found some answers and made some adjustments that we could not adjust back to.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Georgia Tech: King’s ability to spread the ball around — he hit 10 different receivers — and the effectiveness of Smith and Haynes as runners gives defenses plenty to pay attention to, making King all that more effective as a runner. He was barely touched, if at all, on either of his touchdown runs.

“The dudes that we have everywhere, just get the ball to them. That’s my job now. Just get the ball to him. Distribute the ball and let them make plays,” King said.

Virginia: Coach Tony Elliott was hoping to be able to reshirt Colandrea and even put Grady Brosterhous in when Muskett went down, but switched to Colandrea in the same series after Brosterhous completed his first college pass for 21 yards to Malik Washington. Colandrea’s fifth appearance deprives him of a chance to redshirt.

UP NEXT

The Yellow Jackets are back on the road at Clemson on Saturday.

The Cavaliers play at No. 15 Louisville on Thursday night.