CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Georgia Tech's Jamal Lewis wants his teammates to take Saturday's 28-23 loss to Virginia and "flush it down the toilet."
The danger is the rest of the season might swirl away with it.
A season that started as promising as any this century began to spiral on the Yellow Jackets in the horror house that is Virginia's Scott Stadium. Poised to rebound from last week's humbling 14-point loss to Boston College, the Jackets invented ways to lose to the Cavaliers:
- Fumbling a punt to set up the game-winning touchdown.
- Jumping before the snap to turn a fourth-and-one play into a fourth-and-six with less than five minutes to go.
- Failing to finish off tackle after tackle on a 210-pound tailback.
- Falling behind 21-7 in the first quarter.
- Starting Atlantic Coast Conference play 0-2 after winning two non-conference games by an average of 42 points.
"You talk about a morale disrupter ..." Georgia Tech quarterback Taylor Bennett said, his voice trailing off. "To be 2-2, from where we were and as good as we are, is just something that wasn't expected."
No, this was odd even for a game played at Scott Stadium. The last time Georgia Tech left Charlottesville with a victory, Virginia was ranked No. 1 in the country and the Yellow Jackets won 41-38 on a field goal in the waning seconds.
Saturday lacked those kind of fireworks. Mistakes and miscues by both teams marked the game instead, with Georgia Tech managing the last two.
The Yellow Jackets led 23-21 with nine minutes to go and were set to receive a punt around their 25-yard line. Return man Andrew Smith, who was in the game because starter Tyler Evans suffered an early injury, decided against calling for a fair catch even as Virginia's Aaron Clark closed in on him.
Clark hit Smith a second after he fielded the ball, knocking it loose and pulling Smith away from the fumble. Virginia's Patch Duda recovered. The Cavaliers took the lead on the next play after quarterback Jameel Sewell hit Stanton Jobe with a 25-yard touchdown pass.
"I was just trying to make a play and get us good field position," Smith said. "I tried to make a move before I secured the ball and he got on me pretty quick. I have to give it to him because he was in my face."
Georgia Tech's offense almost helped Smith save face two series later.
Smith returned a punt 11 yards to midfield, and Bennett quickly moved Georgia Tech into the red zone. He scrambled for 13 yards on a third-and-14 play.
But freshman Derrick Morgan jumped before the snap on the fourth-and-one, drawing a 5-yard penalty, and Virginia's Chris Long sacked Bennett on the next play.
The late mistakes overshadowed an otherwise solid performance by the Yellow Jackets, who played all but the first two series without tailback Tashard Choice. Choice pulled himself out of the game after he re-aggravated a hamstring injury.
His backup, Jonathan Dwyer, ran for 75 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Bennett threw for 230 yards and a touchdown with one interception.
"This is tough, but we just have to stay up," Lewis said. "We have to keep our heads up and focus on what's ahead of us. We need to come together as a team and get some unity."
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.