If Paul Johnson’s not careful, he’s going to turn the Tech-Georgia game back into a heated rivalry again.
“I thought it was a great college football game,” Johnson said Saturday, opening his post-game remarks. “Both teams played really hard.”
Tech’s 28-27 comeback win gave the Jackets two of the last three in the series. It’s the first time Tech has held the upper hand for any stretch since pulling off a hat trick from ’98 through ’00.
In between, Georgia won 11 of 12. The average score was 35.25-21.16. It’s hard to keep the hatred simmering under those one-sided conditions.
Consider Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate back at full boil.
The outcome wasn’t decided until Qua Searcy dove into the Georgia end zone with half a minute remaining. Harrison Butker then kicked the winning extra point.
Searcy’s score capped a fabulous comeback for Tech. They erased a 27-13 deficit with two touchdowns in the final quarter. Those two drives totaled 140 yards.
And they came after Tech gained all of 18 yards in the entire third quarter.
Meanwhile, Georgia gained all of 29 yards in the fourth quarter. This after dominating the third quarter with three scoring drives totaling 21 plays, 143 yards and 9 minutes, 17 seconds in possession time.
Yet, knocking Tech backwards for the entire quarter, Georgia only managed a single touchdown. And with a chance to squeeze the last bit of resistance out of Tech as the fourth quarter began, Georgia inexplicably loosened its grip.
A fourth down stop gave Georgia the ball at midfield. For the only time all day, the Dogs went three-and-out.
“Any time you go three-and-out, or any turnovers, the momentum is always going to shift,” tailback Sony Michel told georgiadogs.com after the game. “You have to keep your foot on the gas and keep playing hard.”
Which Tech did. Pinned on its own 6 yard-line, and tossed back two more yards on first down, Johnson had a play in mind. Justin Thomas passed to Brad Stewart for 23 yards.
But Johnson noticed Searcy wide open on the play. Apparently, no one on the Georgia sideline, in the Georgia coach’s box, or on the field wearing a red jersey did, however.
Johnson called the same play, Searcy ran just as wide open, and Thomas hit him for 39 yards.
The exact same play.
If the new Georgia coaching staff wants the benefit of the doubt, this is a decidedly odd way to curry favor. And this occurred while Georgia had no fewer than three veteran defensive coordinators observing the proceedings.
Four plays later, Tech was in the end zone, and the game was on.
Georgia’s attempt to run out the clock ended with a poorly thrown pass by Jacob Eason.
“It was a quick out, and we thought we had the look we wanted,” coach Kirby Smart told georgiadogs.com. “We thought we could advance the ball, get two more first downs, and run the clock out.”
Running the clock out implies running the ball. They don’t say “throw the clock out.” When throwing the ball, you risk stopping the clock with an incompletion. Or worse, an interception. Georgia had already tempted fate with a third down pass two plays earlier. So, a pass on second down became the play of choice for the team that spent the whole third quarter knocking Tech backwards.
Three plays after Lance Austin’s interception, Tech was in the red zone. This made it a foregone conclusion that they would score. Georgia finished the season ranked 127th of 128 teams (ahead of only Texas State) in red zone defense.
In 37 such possessions on the season, Georgia allowed 35 scores: 20 rushing touchdowns, nine passing touchdowns, and six field goals.
That’s a 94.6 percent failure rate.
At least Smart was spot-on in his analysis of the fourth quarter: “They hit some passes to loosen us up, and make us play more cautious. They ran when they had to, and they scored touchdowns in the red area,” he told georgiadogs.com.
And just as Georgia seemed to let up, Tech began to bear down.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Johnson told georgiadogs.com. “They fought back. They kept playing. When we had to, on defense, we held them to a couple of field goals. That was the difference in the game. We hit a couple of those play-action passes, and it was on from there.”
We’ll let Johnson continue with the last word. He deserves that much, after all: “We just keep playing. This team doesn’t get a whole lot of respect, nor does the program. So, you just keep playing. I think they’ve done a really good job of doing that. We don’t listen to anything. We just play.”