The Georgia offense entered the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech with a 13-point lead and momentum in the regular-season finale. The players left the field at the quarter’s end with a one-point loss on their shoulders and more questions than answers.
The Bulldogs blew the 13-point lead in the 28-27 loss to Georgia Tech in a game that flipped in large part to both teams’ offenses. The Yellow Jackets’ offense came alive in the fourth quarter after struggling to start the second half, while Georgia couldn’t find much to work with in the deciding 15 minutes.
In the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech piled up 168 yards, two touchdowns and walked away with the Governor’s Cup. Georgia managed only 34 yards with no points and walked away with the loss.
“When we get the ball, we have to execute,” running back Sony Michel said. “We’ve got to make those big plays.”
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart pointed toward the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense as a factor in his team’s fate. Because Georgia Tech works to slow down the game and use a lot of game clock, there are often fewer series in a game. Fewer series mean mistakes are much more critical, which was the case in his team’s latest loss.
“(When you) miss on a first or second down or have a play lined up wrong or look at the wrong read, when you do one line thing wrong, it blows it out of proportion because you lose a drive,” Smart said. “That’s consistently what we’ve done. When you do that, you make yourself susceptible to those kind of games.”
After a strong showing in the first three quarters, Georgia’s three drives in the fourth quarter put its chances of winning in serious jeopardy.
Its first drive gained no yards on three plays and was one of the rare times the team didn’t convert on third down. The second drive saw the Bulldogs run time off the clock, only for quarterback Jacob Eason to throw a disastrous interception near midfield. Georgia overcame a third-down drop to keep its final drive alive but ultimately saw it end on an ugly interception from Eason as the clock hit all zeroes.
The Georgia defense didn’t do its part at stopping the Yellow Jackets, but the Bulldogs offense still had enough to put the game away and failed.
The drop-off in the fourth quarter destroyed what had the makings of a feel-good win for Georgia. Michel ran wild throughout the game and ended with a career-high 170 rushing yards. The senior class was set on leaving Sanford Stadium for the final time with a victory. The team as a whole came oh so close to riding a four-game winning streak into bowl season.
Instead, players like center Brandon Kublanow were left shaking their heads at the outcome.
“I think we only had the ball once or twice (in the fourth quarter),” Kublanow said. “Things happened, and we threw a pick. Hard to come back after that.”
Kublanow was visibly emotional after the game, as he is part of Georgia’s second senior class in three years to leave Sanford Stadium for the final time with a loss to the Yellow Jackets. He and the rest of the offensive line played one of their best games of the season. But thanks to a sloppy fourth quarter and a resurgence from Georgia Tech, it wasn’t enough.
“You give everything you have for the ‘G’ for four years, and for it to end like that, it hurts,” Kublanow said.