ATLANTA — There was no confetti for Georgia Tech on Wednesday night at the Georgia Dome. There was no late-night drunken merriment. There were just paper planes.
Mauled, maimed and downright outplayed by the LSU Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve night, the No. 14 Yellow Jackets had hardly anything to celebrate, as they were humbled by the unranked Tigers in a mind-blowing 38-3 loss. With the win, the defending national champions claimed their fifth Chick-fil-A Bowl victory, and second bowl game victory over Georgia Tech. LSU also beat the Yellow Jackets in the 2000 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
"This was certainly a disappointing ending to the season," Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. "Out there (Wednesday), certainly, we got outplayed. We got outcoached. It was a pretty good beating. I mean, they really beat us."
While no celebratory white and gold balloons fell from the Georgia Dome's rafters in praise of the Yellow Jackets on Wednesday, thousands of Georgia Tech fans decided to provide their own, different kind of aerial assault. Intermittently hurling some several hundred pieces of neatly folded, white paper planes, a large share of the 71,423 fans guided the small objects through the stands, zig-zagging them toward the field.
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Starting early in the third quarter, as frustrated Georgia Tech fans tried to entertain themselves in the closing half of the bowl game rout, more of the carefully constructed flying objects found their way into the end zone than Yellow Jackets players themselves; at least six planes landed smoothly across Georgia Tech's goal line.
"I saw that; it was pretty entertaining," sophomore B-back Jonathan Dwyer said of the planes. "It didn't distract us or anything; we just thought it was pretty funny."
The planes weren't the only objects soaring high above the Yellow Jackets on Wednesday. Early in the game, LSU lofted several passes that tested the Georgia Dome's friendly skies, as Tigers quarterback Jordan Jefferson completed his first nine passes. On LSU's game-opening drive alone, Jefferson successfully completed his first three passing attempts for first-downs, leading to LSU's early go-ahead score. It would be the only touchdown the Tigers would need as the Yellow Jackets couldn't enter the end zone, turning the ball over twice deep in LSU's territory.
"We really have to give LSU a lot of credit," Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett said. "They came out to play and looked like a defending national champion team."
Johnson went a step further.
"My hat's off to them," Johnson said. "I think we self-destructed there in the second quarter in the special teams area. (You can't self-destruct) especially when you do that to a team that's as talented as they are."
Trailing the Tigers 14-3 early in the second quarter, Georgia Tech began to falter when it couldn't recover an LSU onside kick, and fumbled on a punt return during the following drive. After the second miscue, the Yellow Jackets allowed a Tigers touchdown, falling into a deep 21-3 hole. From there, LSU added two more touchdowns, jumping to a 35-3 lead, and running toward the big win.
"We have some pretty nifty special teams guys," LSU head coach Les Miles said of the onside kick. "They have some skill. We felt like we could maybe steal some possessions to keep the ball away from (Georgia Tech's) offense."
Not readily known this season for its special teams play, Georgia Tech didn't look very nifty nor skilled on one other second-quarter special teams play, when Johnson opted to call a fake punt. Trailing 21-3 at the time, the Yellow Jackets snapped the ball to defensive end Derrick Morgan in a punt formation, and he proceeded to run toward the right sideline. Tripped up just beyond the line of scrimmage, Morgan was far from the first-down marker, resulting in a Georgia Tech turnover.
"We had the fake, but if there's too many guys out there to block, we can 'Omaha' (audible) out of the thing, and we probably should've Omaha'd out," Johnson said. "There were too many guys to block. I know that. I learned a pretty good lesson with our guys this year now: Don't give them that option."
While Georgia Tech's poor special teams play helped propel the Tigers to the win, LSU didn't seem to need much help stomping all over the Yellow Jackets.
Even after his strong first drive, LSU's true freshman quarterback Jefferson, continued his nationally-televised coming out party, by finishing the game 16-for-25 passing on 142 yards and one touchdown.
Getting just the second start of his young career, Jefferson was named LSU's bowl game starter earlier this week after injuries and poor performances kept the Tigers' other two quarterbacks sidelined.
"He played remarkably well, and we helped him a lot, too," Johnson said. "But my hat's off to him."