ATLANTA -- The play is one of the most memorable to Georgia Tech fans from the past decade, if not longer. It draws the loudest cheers from the crowd every time it is shown on the video board at Bobby Dodd Stadium. That 62-yard run by Roddy Jones against Georgia in 2008 is still fresh enough to sharpen the stinger of every Yellow Jacket and rub the fur of any Bulldog the wrong way.
Head coach Paul Johnson still enjoys seeing the play and enjoying the result, but said this week there was nothing magical about the call that led to that long touchdown run. It’s not like the play came down from Mount Olympus.
“It was just an option,” Johnson said. “Every time you call a play, you think they have a chance. He caught the pitch and the safety missed the tackle and he kept going down the sidelines.”
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“I remember missing the extra point more than that,” Johnson said.
He was referring to last year’s game, when Georgia Tech scored twice in the fourth quarter and was a point away from tying the game. It wasn’t to be, as Scott Blair clanked the extra point, his first miss after 77 straight conversions. Georgia ended up winning 42-34.
It’s just Johnson’s nature to recall the bad things as more memorable than the good things.
“A lot of that is self-inflected,” he said. “I’m not sure everybody does that. The highs are never as high as the lows are the lows.”
That’s been true this year for the Jackets (8-3), who have beaten two nationally ranked opponents (North Carolina and Clemson) and scared the fool out of Virginia Tech. But those losses to Miami and Virginia stick out like a sore thumb.
“We’ve won a ton of big games, but I always remember the ones you let get away,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot harder if you feel like something happened that could have gone the other way, as opposed to getting drubbed. The ones that are close, you keep searching for one little thing that could have swung the game the other way are the ones you think about.”
He reflected back on his time at Georgia Southern as an example.
“I was lucky to be part of four national championships at Georgia Southern, two as head coach, but the one I remember the most was 1998 when we lost the thing to UMass when we turned the ball over seven times,” Johnson said. “That football team was one of the best offensive football teams I’ve ever had. We averaged 50 points and I kept thinking about on that one game, where it was raining, it was muddy … The next two years we won the thing and it was exciting and great, but that still doesn’t make you get over the other one.”
Johnson probably has had time to look at every Georgia game in hindsight since he arrived in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets won 45-42 in 2008 to break a seven-year losing streak to the Dogs. Georgia answered with a 30-27 win in 2009 and a 42-34 win in 2010, when Georgia Tech actually allowed the Bulldogs to score in the final two minutes just to get the ball back and have one last chance.
“You know it’s a rivalry; wherever you’re at there’s usually a rivalry,” Johnson said. “There’s no question that both sides want to win. … Nobody is going to overlook anybody in a rivalry game.”