ATHENS -- This could have been a game no one cared about. Georgia Tech has more important things to worry about next week in the ACC championship game. And Georgia’s hopes for a conference title were dashed Friday when Missouri won the SEC East.
There was still a lot on the line. Everything, as a matter of fact, was on the line.
There were fumbles, questionable calls, faked field goals, blocked kicks, an onside kick, a squibbed kick and a horrific coaching decision. It wasn’t the prettiest football game you’ll ever see, but it certainly was entertaining.
It’s what a rivalry is all about, and, for the second straight year, Georgia Tech and Georgia gave us something special to watch.
This is the game Georgia usually wins. In fact, the Bulldogs have won a lot like this over Georgia Tech in the Mark Richt era.
Very seldom have we seen boring blowouts. This one, however, might have topped them all. And Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets walked out smiling this time.
Forget about thinking the players don’t care about this game. They do, and the effort showed that Saturday in Athens.
“It’s Tech. You never want to take a fall to those guys,” Georgia defensive end Ray Drew said.
Georgia cornerback Damian Swann added, “That team is good. They are good at what they do.”
Georgia Tech was more physical on the lines of scrimmage, which perhaps surprised a Georgia team that has improved throughout the season in that area. Everyone knew Georgia Tech would get its yards on offense, and the Yellow Jackets did (463). But running back Zach Laskey, who had 140 rushing yards, gave credit to the ones who helped him the most.
“The guys up front,” Laskey said. “We were able to get a good push all game. Coach (Johnson) said, ‘They think they’re bigger than you. Go out there and show them they’re not.’ I think we established that.”
Georgia Tech’s players did seem to come in with a chip on their collective shoulder. Perhaps it was last year’s game, when the Yellow Jackets led 20-0 and lost in overtime at home.
“It’s an exciting win,” Laskey said. “Last year, we kind of felt like we had them where we wanted them, and we let them out. So this year, it’s special, especially for the seniors.”
There’s not enough space to highlight one particular play that made the difference. Whichever team lost this game would undoubtedly shake their heads at the costly mistakes. Georgia Tech just got the final break, and, for a team hungry for a win against Georgia, it was almost as if the Yellow Jackets were due.
It doesn’t help the Georgia players, however, who were already down after seeing Arkansas failing to help the Bulldogs get into the SEC title game. That made this a little bit different than last season’s game against the in-state rival. This year’s overtime was not as much fun as a year ago.
“We’re on the other end of it,” Swann said. “Last year, we were doing what they are doing. Now this year, we are doing what they did last year. It comes with the sport. It comes with the opportunity that you get. Next time these guys have to finish.
“We missed out on a lot of opportunities. We have to make sure it doesn’t happen like that.”
Said Drew, “A lot of stuff happened in this game. You can try to pin it down to one play or two plays. I’m pretty sure there were hundreds of plays run out there, and each one of them had an effect on the outcome of this game. It’s just the small things that we might have missed that ultimately came out to this outcome.”
Georgia Tech has more work to do, but if anyone wanted this rivalry to be taken to the next level, consider it mission accomplished. A win like this for one team and a loss like this for the other will do that every time.
Clean, old fashioned hate just went up a notch. That’s a great rivalry for you.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at www.twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.