Kyle described my feelings exactly. Only rarely (think 2002) has a win over Tech been more joy than relief for me. It’s a game that means so much to me that every imperfection gets magnified. Only a glaring drop on Tech’s first possession kept their weak passing game from hitting a home run – something we just couldn’t have. The special teams miscues were uncharacteristic and dreadful. What were we thinking? Stafford started 5-of-13 and threw one right at Adamm Oliver which was fortunately dropped.
But Georgia proved to be better than their mistakes. For all of the imperfections, the Dawgs put up 31 points and 432 yards of offense. Georgia had averaged 16 PPG against Tech since 2004. The defense did it again and all but shut down Tech in the second half. Stafford’s passes went from dumbfounding to astonishing. Even Georgia’s mistakes provided opportunities to shine: Knowshon Moreno’s recovery and hustle after a botched lateral cost Tech a touchdown (and a serious momentum shift).
Tech’s defense lends itself to a lot of ugly offense with just a handful of opportunities for big plays. Georgia has had the ugly offense part down for several years, and they hadn’t been much in the big play department. I noted last week that Georgia had a single play longer than 20 yards in last year’s 15-12 win. This year Georgia was better able to capitalize on those big play chances. On each of their four touchdown drives, the Bulldogs had a play of at least 30 yards. They were able to connect through the air to both Massaquoi and Bailey, and Brown also contributed a few long gains on the ground.
Credit to Bobo for sticking with the running game. Even with Moreno’s frustrating day and Tech’s constant harassment behind the line of scrimmage, Georgia was able to break a fair number of plays as the game wore on. Though Stafford’s ability to hit some passes downfield was significant, generating over 200 yards on the ground paid dividends late in the game. ABC noted how Georgia was able to keep up a steady rotation of defensive players throughout the game, and Tech had no such luxury especially with Oliver hurt.
After a few days for it to soak in, this was a much better win than I thought at the time.
Georgia hadn’t managed over 106 yards rushing as a team against Tech since 2002. Brown had the most impressive day by a Bulldog against the Yellow Jackets since Verron Haynes went for 207 in 2001. With 706 yards on the season, Brown now has 2,573 career rushing yards. He needs only eight yards to pass Kevin McLee for fifth place on Georgia’s career rushing yardage list. Moreno is definitely a key to the success this season, but Saturday was the hometown senior’s chance to shine.
A pivotal, if not the pivotal point in the game came at the end of the first half, and it centers around a coaching decision which might ultimately cost Chan Gailey his job.
Georgia had just scored but missed the extra point and led 16-14. Tech quickly got the ball inside the Georgia 40 and, with two timeouts remaining, seemed to be in a position to at least get a field goal and go into the locker room with the lead. Tashard Choice had become increasingly effective in the second quarter, particularly when taking the direct snap. Surely with two timeouts a few runs by Choice could get the ball inside the Georgia 30 and have Tech in a spot for a reasonably certain field goal. The Tech offensive coaches outfoxed us all and called for three consecutive passing plays. The first two were incomplete, natch. The snap of the third was mishandled by Bennett, and he was sacked and injured diving on the loose ball. Instead of a likely go-ahead field goal, Tech actually lost yards on the series and came up just short on a 62-yard field goal attempt. Georgia kept the lead, and they wouldn’t surrender it in the second half.
As much as I have a problem with sports columnists capriciously playing off-with-their-heads when real careers and lives are involved, this was one clear example where coaching mattered and let the Tech team down.
UPDATE: Well, Gailey is out now. On one hand, he did lose six straight to Georgia. On the other hand, I’m mostly serious when I say that six straight bowl bids, winning seasons, an ACC divisional title, and a relatively clean program is likely going to prove to be a tough act to follow. Was this move Georgia firing Donnan or Ole Miss firing Cutcliffe? Tech fans probably have these two questions, and you can debate the order of importance: 1) who’s the next head coach, and 1.0000001) what does it take to keep Tenuta if he’s not the next head coach?
- Southerland was instrumental in so many key plays. I hope to have one of them up later.
- As much as we wanted a shot at the national title, I’m not sure I would have liked our chances with an injured Brandon Coutu.
- Rashad Jones atoned for a pass interference penalty with a nice leaping interception. After missing a couple of chances earlier in the year, he made a good play on the ball. He also got a little talking-to after a personal foul penalty for removing his helmet. There’s no question that Jones will be a solid member of the secondary going forward.
- I’m hoping that the next member of the secondary to take a step forward is Prince Miller. He’s been picked on more than anyone this year. It’s no sin for a sophomore cornerback to have his struggles, but eventually you hope for signs of progress. We got just that against Tech when Miller made a great play to get a hand in to knock away a likely long reception.
- If there’s a tackle for a loss by the Georgia defense, I first look for Curran and Atkins.
- Massaquoi has become as rock-steady a receiver as Georgia has had in years. After struggling with the drops last season, he is money when the Dawgs have to have a catch. I know everyone is already looking forward to the incoming receivers, but MoMass will be the star of the passing game next year.
- Is it just me, or did Georgia run the same 2-point conversion they used against Tech last year? In 2006, Stafford hit the man in motion (in that case, Massaquoi) at the goal line. This time, as the play went right, Stafford found Kenneth Harris back across the grain in the back of the endzone. It was good to see the senior Harris make a play; he had another meaningful catch as well.