The Georgia Tech
Yellow Jackets and Georgia Bulldogs come into this 111th edition of
the rivalry game with identical 7-4 records, both knowing that they
would be headed to a middle level bowl game at best. But, each also
knowing how important this game is to its respective fan bases.
Georgia had impressive wins against North Carolina in the opener at
the Georgia Dome and against Auburn. But, it also had disappointing
losses to Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Florida. They enter this game on
a bit of a roll having won their last three games after a 4-4 start.
For the Yellow Jackets, they also had their share of losses to Miami,
Pitt and North Carolina with the one blowout coming against Clemson.
But, a few impressive victories are mixed in at Virginia Tech and
against Duke. And after a 5-4 start, they have won their last two.
The teams had split the last four meetings between the hedges.
It would be the only meeting between freshman QB Jacob Eason and
senior QB Justin Thomas.
Georgia got the ball first as senior Reggie Davis brought the ball
out and only made it to the 16.
Nick Chubb, who missed last year’s meeting in Atlanta with an
injury, got things started with carries of five and nine to the 30.
More Chubb for 12 to the 42. The Tech defense seemed to have no
answer for Chubb who took it 12 more into Tech territory at the 43.
Same results with Sony Michel took his turn for 11 on a pair
of carries to the 32 and six to the 24. Eason hit Riley Ridley
for what would have been a first down, but the freshman saw it
bounce off his chest. A promising drive ended with a missed
Rodrigo Blankenship field goal from 42.
Georgia Tech’s Qua Searcy picked up with Chubb and Michel left
off. But faster. First with a 32 yard carry to the 38 then a 42 yard
run to the end zone to give the Yellow Jackets the first points of
the game at 7-0. The drive took just 1:50.
The Dawgs got 11 to start their drive on three carries by Chubb and
Michel to the 38. On a third and 12, Jacob Eason scrambled to buy
time and hit for 25 yards to the GT30. Eason scrambled to buy time
and found Isaac Nauti for a 35 yard gain to the GT30. Ridley
caught one at the 20 for nine. Kirby Smart took his first
time out on a third and one. The call worked as Chubb converted to
the 17. A handoff to Michel picked up 7 to the 10. Sony got the
remaining 7 on the next carry to tie the game at 7.
Tech began their second drive at the 25. Justin Thomas kept it for a pair
of five yard gains to the 35. The game moved into the second
quarter. Thomas kept it for seven to make it third and one at the
44. The defense held forcing Ryan Rodwell’s first punt with
UGA taking over at their 25.
Chubb started with a rush to the 26 followed by a pass to Terry Godwin
that netted ten to the 36. The drive stalled there with Tech taking
over at its 27.
Thomas caught the UGA defense off guard by launching a 64 yard bomb to
Brad Stewart who made it to the UGA9 for a first and goal.
Rushes for Dedrick Mills and Marcus Marshall covered
the rest to regain the GT lead 14-7. Another drive that took just
over a minute. It was Mills first game at Sanford Stadium with
Marshall playing where his brother, Keith Marshall, had
played before moving on to the NFL this year.
Michel started the drive with an 18 yard gain to the 43. The elusive back
then broke free for the Dawgs’ biggest play for 42 yards to the
GT15. A pass to the left corner of the end zone drew a pass
interference fowl on Lawrence Austin putting the ball at the two. A
touchdown by Chubb was nullified by a holding call moving it back to
the 12. Michel caught one for six followed by a bit of a skirmish.
Third and goal at the six. Eason got what he needed on a pass to
Isaiah McKenzie tying it again at 14. Unsportsmanlike calls on
Isaiah McKenzie, Ridley and Lawrence Austin were
Nate Cottrell took the kick at the 8 and brought it out to the 30.
Thomas tossed it to the right to former Bulldog J.J. Green,
who picked up 11 at the 39. A nice Searcy run was brought back on a
chop block on senior Freddie Burden. First and 25 at the 24.
A short pass to Marshall got 11 for a third and 10. Thomas, not
liking what he saw in front of him, took a time out. Green went left
and brought down an 11 yard first down catch at midfield. A couple
of runs lost a yard and brought up another third and long. Thomas
threw a deep pass to Searcy that was intercepted by Dominick
Sanders at the 9. Better than a punt with less than a minute to
go in the half. DE Antonio Simmons was banged up on the play
and walked off slowly to the locker room. Michel picked up a first
down with 23 second left.
For the most part, first half stats were even except in time of
possession with UGA doubling when they had their hands on the ball
19:50 to 10:10. The story so far was the quite different ways each
team had moved the ball and scored. Tech’s two scores came on drives
that took just 1:44 and 1:21 featuring explosive plays of 32 and 42
yards by Search and 64 yards by Stewart. UGA, on the other hand, had
just one big play. A 42 yard run by Michel. The rest of their
yardage had come on runs of 5, 9 and 12 yards by Chubb and Michel.
But each method worked with a pair of touchdowns scored by each
Tech started the second half in bad field position at the 16.And it
didn’t get any better. A toss right for 18 to Green got it out to
the 34. Then Roquon Smith forced a fumble by Isiah Willis
at the 41 that was run back13 yards by Sanders to the GT28. An 11
yard pass to Jeb Blazevich got a first down at the 14. But
again the Dawgs’ offense dried up in the red zone. This time,
Blankenship put it through to give UGA its first lead 17-14. The GT
defense kept the turnover from resulting in just three points.
Tech began their second drive of the half at their 25 with a six
yard Marshall run. Thomas was sacked as he scrambled in the
backfield for a four yard loss to bring up a third and 8. Again, he
couldn’t get rid of the ball for another sack for minus 14 at the
22. A rolling punt stopped at the UGA35.
Michel took a handoff and followed the pile that took him 10 yards
to the 43. Michel then found a hole up the middle rambling 29 yards
all the way to the 27 with 15 tacked on for a facemask call. Ball at
the GT13. Chubb got 11 on a pair of carries for a first and goal at
the three. Georgia extended their lead to 10 with another Chubb run
to make it 24-14. Five plays and 67 yards in just 2:19.
The game began showing signs that Georgia was pulling away as they
held Tech to a three and out. The Bulldogs took over at their 27 and
added to that feeling with a 37 yard third down completion to Godwin
at the GT32. A third and four was converted with a 7 yard pass to
Nauta at the 19. The Jackets defense limited the damage and kept the
game to within two scores as Blankenship field kicked a 32 yard
field goal. The lead was now at 13, 27-14. For the Bulldogs, a third
red zone failure.
Tech desperately needed a score as the third quarter came to an end
starting at their 25. A 10 yard toss left to Clinton Lynch got the
Jackets a first down at the 38. Then another first at the UGA49. The
next three plays only picked up six and Paul Johnson had no choice
but to go for it on fourth and four. As Searcy was tackled seven
yards deep in the back field, it was becoming apparent that the game
was getting out of reach with Georgia taking over in great field
position at the GT49. The Jackets are not a team that is built for
big comebacks late in the game and, barring a big stop or turnover,
a score here would pretty much put it out of reach.
The defense held Georgia to a three and out and, as expected, they
got the ball back after the kick at their six needing 94 yards just
to get to within a score with 9:51 left in the game.
After a short gain on the first play, CB Aaron Davis came out
with an injury. Paul Johnson took notice of the missing cornerback
and quickly got some breathing room with a 23 yard pass to Stewart
at the 27. He didn’t see, though, a wide open Searcy 30 yards
downfield that would have been a sure six points. Searcy must have
told him when he got back to the huddle because, on the next play,
Thomas found him open again for Searcy 39 yards at the UGA34. Kirby
Smart took his first time out of the second half to regroup. A pitch
right to Lynch added 7 to the 27. Marshall broke free for 19 yards
to the left sideline stopping right at UGA’s dog house. First and
goal at the 8. Two plays later Mills powered his way through three
defenders across the goal line to pull to within a score, 27-21. The
quick drive took just 3:23 with plenty of time left at 6:28. During
the drive, the UGA defense not only lost Davis, but DB Maurice
Smith (finger) and CB Deandre Baker B (right leg), all in
The Bulldog offense took over at their 25 trying to extend the lead
beyond six. Michel carried it twice for 7 as Chubb was getting his
right hamstring worked on on the sidelines with leg stretches. The
runs gave Michel a new career high with 168 yards. Eason went to the
air for a first down pass to Godwin at the 37. Smart reluctantly
took his second time out as the clock was about to run out on the
Then potential disaster as Eason’s pass was thrown too far behind Godwin
and was deflected into the arms of Lance Austin, the ACC
Defensive Player of the Week who had a pick six that sealed the win
over Virginia last week.
The Jackets took over at the UGA46 with 3:37 left in the game. An illegal
formation made it first and 15 at their 49. Thomas got it all back
with a 16 yard pass to Lynch. A tough run by Marshall broke tackles
and got another 13 to the 19. Searcy followed a block from Ricky
Jeune and got nine with the clock ticking down to 1:37. Mills
made it first and goal at the six. Clock moving to 1:24 and
counting. They lost a yard on a toss to Searcy. Down to less than a
minute. Johnson had to take his first time out at 36 seconds as a
toss to Lynch got nothing for a third and goal.
A trick play toss to Searcy to the right was intended for him to throw
it. But it was going nowhere until the back switched directions and
saw a hole up the middle, diving through it into the end zone to tie
the game at 27. The 95 percent part of the crowd dressed in red were
stunned. The others bunched in the southwest corner were delirious.
Senior Harrison Butker came in to put his team ahead with the
extra point, 28-27. Fourteen unanswered points after Georgia had
scored 20 straight of their own. The difference being the Jackets
were putting up touchdowns while the Bulldogs included a pair of
Just 30 seconds remained and the Dawgs started at their 25 needing about
40 yards to get to within field goal range with just one timeout
Isaiah Wynn used five seconds to get eight yards on a catch before
running out of bounds at the 33. Five more seconds on an incomplete
pass leaving just 20 ticks. A pass to Nauta flew through his hands
on what would have gotten them into Tech territory. Nothing gained
with three less seconds. Eason went to Nauta again to get the first
down at the 38 as the QB spiked the ball to conserve time. Georgia
still needed another 20 yards or so to give Blankenship a shot. An
incomplete pass up the middle intended for Godwin squeezed the clock
to six seconds and a third and ten. Johnson took his second time out
to make sure he had everything covered. With no more options, Eason
just heaved the ball up with it falling harmlessly into the hands of
LB Brant Mitchell at the 20. Game over. The Jackets had beaten the
Bulldogs for the second time in a row and the third time in the last
five years under Johnson between the hedges.
And, of course, some of those hedges wound up in the teeth of the
victorious Tech players, some of whom reciprocated what the Bulldogs
did last year at Bobby Dodd Stadium. A handful carried the Georgia
Tech flag to the middle of the field and planted it solidly on the
Going five of six down the stretch, the Jackets had improved five wins
over their 3-8 record in 2015.
“It was a great college football game,” Johnson said after. Talking
about the game winning TD by Searcy, the coach confirmed the
original intention of the altered play. “It was either or. It was a
throwback to the quarterback. I think it froze them. He looked like
he was going to throw it. A great individual play.”
A few hours later, Tech’s Facebook page posted live footage of the
team busses pulling up to Bobby Dodd with throngs of scream fans
waiting to welcome them home.
Originally slotted to maybe play in a bowl like the Military in DC,
the Jackets now had better possibilities of a Tier 1 bowl in
Orlando, Jacksonville, or maybe another trip to El Paso. For
Georgia, the outcome didn’t likely change their destination. The
Music City Bowl, which had not hosted the Dawgs since 2001, had
expressed interest in them earlier in the week as had the Liberty
Bowl in Memphis.