Georgia snuffed out Georgia Tech’s trick play on the Yellow Jackets’ final drive of Saturday’s game. The only issue for the Bulldogs was ball carrier Qua Searcy wasn’t going down easy.
The Bulldogs found themselves close to a huge stop on a third-and-goal with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Up 27-21, Georgia had to be on guard and seemed to be when Searcy took the handoff to his right and looked back at quarterback Justin Thomas, who had taken off on a route to the left. With Thomas covered up, Searcy instead cut up the middle and dove toward the end zone.
Searcy scored. Georgia Tech’s extra point was up and good. And the Bulldogs were left nearly speechless after another game somehow slipped away.
"It was a guy making a play," outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said. "They were going to run a halfback throw-back or something, and we defended it well. The guy just made a play. Take no credit away from them. He saw the pass wasn't there and dove from like the 5-yard line."
Georgia didn’t seem caught off guard by Thomas as he rolled out into the flat, and with good reason. Head coach Kirby Smart explained the team ran that play all week because of the curveball it throws a defense. A defense is taught to flow in the direction of the option run; doing so on that play leaves Thomas wide open.
The Georgia players on the outside were ready, but it was a failure elsewhere that did the Bulldogs in.
“They were going to throw it back to him, and I would have thought that would have been wide open, but Reggie (Carter) covered it really well,” Smart said. “We had a break down on the inside and they didn't get the guy on the ground. People probably overplayed the play. Everybody went back to stop Justin, and (Searcy) just kept it and ran it in. I don't know if we missed tackles or if he just made a hell of a run, but he got it in.”
The final drive by Georgia Tech began with unfavorable circumstances for the Bulldogs’ defense. With the Georgia offense working toward draining time, quarterback Jacob Eason threw an interception on the Bulldogs’ 46-yard line with only 3:39 left on the game clock. The Yellow Jackets offense had found a spark in the fourth quarter after struggling mightily in the third, and the situation set up well for Georgia Tech’s chances.
The Yellow Jackets worked the clock and reached goal-to-go on their sixth play of the drive. Georgia’s defense delivered two big plays on first- and second-and-goal, stopping Searcy and Clinton Lynch for no gain both times.
Then came the third-down run that finished off what was a dramatic collapse for Georgia.
“I feel like I had contain,” linebacker Lorenzo Carter said. “He just cut it upfield. We hadn't seen that all game. Once he cut it up, we weren't there to stop it. He made a great play, diving for the end zone.”
For Carter, the play wasn’t just an ending to a tough loss against a bitter rival. It was a microcosm for the entire 2016 season, a regular season which turned on several plays and ended with a 7-5 record.
“It's the story of our season,” Carter said. “It's so close. We've been close in a lot of games. We knew it was going to be a four-quarter battle, just like every game this year.
“They just made one more play.”