Little did Georgia Tech realize that a meek little pass in the flat was going to turn its fortunes around.
On second-and-8 from the Georgia 40, Bulldogs quarterback Jacob Eason fired a pass to the left. It was neither a great pass nor a horrible pass, but it was close enough for intended receiver Terry Godwin to handle. Instead, it glanced off him and bounced into the hands of Lance Austin.
Austin dove and picked the ball off, just before it found the Sanford Stadium turf, and tumbled to the ground with the one little break that Georgia Tech needed. Ten plays later, the Yellow Jackets were celebrating a 28-27 win.
“We were in zone coverage,” Austin said. “It was tipped right to me, I dove and caught it. My teammates put me in a great position to make a play.”
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It was the second consecutive game that Austin has come up with a crucial late-game interception. Last week, he had a pick-six that iced the win against Virginia. This was even bigger, since it gave the Yellow Jackets a chance to win the game.
“It was a tough catch,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “He’s made a lot of big plays for us this year.”
It was Austin’s fourth interception of the season.
“He’s always around the ball,” linebacker P.J. Davis said. “He’s always coming up with the big plays. It was big.”
A change in bowl venues
Georgia Tech won’t know until next Saturday where it will be headed for a bowl game. But now that the Yellow Jackets are 8-4 with three straight wins, their stock has risen. It looks as if the Independence Bowl and Pinstripe Bowl are out, with the most likely destinations being the Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, or the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland. The Military Bowl is keen to have Johnson, who was the head coach at Navy for six years before he came to Georgia Tech.
“I’m not sure how that works. I’m sure there’s a lot of politics involved,” Johnson said. “We’re just happy to be going to a bowl game, and we’ll go play where they want us.”
Here’s a souvenir
Georgia Tech defensive tackle Pat Gamble was insulted a year ago when Georgia planted a UGA flag at the 50-yard line of Bobby Dodd Stadium. So this year, he and his teammates returned the favor.
“It’s very important for our team,” Gamble said. “It means a lot to our team. To end the regular season like this, beating Georgia in their stadium, it’s a big deal. I want them to remember (the flag).
Many Georgia Tech players also left the field with pieces of the famed Sanford Stadium hedges in their hands, some between their teeth.
“It feels great,” linebacker P.J. Davis said. “Both my wins (against Georgia) came here in Athens. It’s a great feeling, especially going out as a senior. This is the last time I get to play Georgia. I feel very blessed.”
Nuts and bolts
The victory gave Georgia Tech its fourth eight-win regular season under Johnson. The win marked a five-game improvement from last year. Johnson joined Bobby Dodd as the only head coaches at Georgia Tech with at least three wins at Georgia. … Harrison Butker kicked four extra points and is now tied with Luke Manget for first place in career points scored (222).