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    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Jameel Sewell had just finished a forgettable series, completing two passes to receivers who got hammered for 1-yard gains and throwing another that bounced high off a receiver’s hands and almost got intercepted.
    Time was running out on the Cavaliers.
    But when a muffed punt gave Virginia new life at Georgia Tech’s 26-yard line and Sewell again got the call at quarterback, he wasted no time cashing in, hitting Staton Jobe with a bullet that lifted Virginia past the Yellow Jackets 28-23 Saturday.
    ‘‘It was just the perfect coverage. He was wide open and a perfect play call. I just had to make sure I got the ball to him,’’ Sewell said of the pass with 8:56 left.
    The play also provided redemption for Jobe, whose day to that point consisted of a dropped pass and little else, and who knew the opportunity to make amends was at hand.
    ‘‘When they called the play, I was like, ‘I need to make a play. This is my time to step up and do something,’’’ Jobe said. ‘‘It wasn’t one of my better games.’’
    The surprising Cavaliers (3-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) also got 138 rushing yards from ACC leader Cedric Peerman and several big plays from defensive end Chris Long as they won their third straight against ACC Coastal Division opponents.
    Suddenly, things are looking a whole lot brighter for the team that managed five first downs and 110 total yards in a 23-3 season-opening loss at Wyoming.
    ‘‘We’ve certainly improved from last week. We’ve done that three weeks in a row,’’ coach Al Groh said. ‘‘We might be a little better than people gave us credit for.’’
    It helps that Peerman has helped stabilize the offense with his hard running, and that Long’s big plays on defense have become the norm, rather than the exception.
    Long batted at least two passes away, one turning into a 25-yard interception return, and sacked Taylor Bennett on fourth down at Virginia’s 30 late in the game.
    ‘‘He’s one of the best defensive players I’ve seen in our conference,’’ coach Chan Gailey said. ‘‘You better know where he is, and you better have a plan.’’
    The Yellow Jackets got one more chance after a punt by Virginia set them up at their own 35 with 1:51 left, but two holding penalties moved them back and four consecutive incomplete passes by Taylor Bennett finished off the Cavaliers victory.
    Bennett, who threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the opening series for a 7-0 lead, finished 17-for-40 for 230 yards. He was sacked twice.
    Georgia Tech (2-2, 0-2) lost its second in a row and for the eighth consecutive time at Scott Stadium. Its last victory here came against No. 1 Virginia in 1990.
    The Yellow Jackets actually erased a 21-7 deficit and led 23-21 with the help of two Virginia turnovers, but their first two giveaways of the season were costly.
    ‘‘Any time you turn it over to a touchdown, it hurts,’’ Gailey said.
    Georgia Tech turned its two turnovers into 10 points, while Virginia got a 25-yard interception return from Jeffrey Fitzgerald and the big pass from Sewell to Jobe.
    Sewell, whose shaky play against Wyoming helped prompt the coaching staff to get freshman Peter Lalich some turns at quarterback, played possibly his best game, driving Virginia to touchdowns on its first two possessions, the second a 94-yard march.
    The start, he said, ‘‘was just a big confidence booster for me.’’
    He finished 16-for-25 for 177 yards and the winning TD pass.
    The Cavaliers led 21-7 after 13 minutes, but helped Georgia Tech get back in it, committing two turnovers that led to field goals and another mistake when Lalich’s deep pass for Chris Gorham was intercepted by Morgan Burnett at the goal line.
    The pick came right after Travis Bell’s career-best 51-yard field goal gave Georgia Tech a 23-21 lead. But when the teams exchanged punts, Virginia turned the tables.
    As Tech’s Andrew Smith settled under Ryan Weigand’s punt, Aaron Clark was bearing down on him and Smith muffed the catch. Trey Womack recovered for Virginia at the Yellow Jackets 26. On the next play, Sewell hit Jobe for the go-ahead touchdown.