It was the best of games.
It was the worst of games.
But Georgia’s 42-34 defeat of Tech Saturday night certainly epitomized the 2010 seasons of both teams.
Only in a season like this would a game turn on a missed extra point by a kicker who had drilled 77 in a row.
Only a season like this would have produced the irony of the nation’s best running team having to go airborne during its final two possessions.
Only a season like this could provide a game where the defense that allowed 512 yards, fended off 94 plays, and lingered on the field for 38 minutes would produce four turnovers and provide two crucial stops at the game’s end.
Perhaps most incredibly, only these two teams, in this season, could have produced the sight of one team finding its best chance to win in allowing the other to score.
That two 6-6 teams — and those records define mediocrity — produced one of the most dramatic, exciting, and enjoyable games of this college football season stands as a tribute to their rivalry.
Clean, Old Fashioned Hate appears alive and well. These two teams went at each other with all the gusto they could muster, yet they never resorted to dirty tactics or personal fouls.
On a night when the only tangible goal attainable was a Bulldog bowl trip, these two teams played like the national championship, not state championship, was on the line. Twice Georgia slipped ahead by two touchdowns. Twice Tech battled back. The ebb and flow throughout was reminiscent of the classic 1978 game.
They put on a show that should have inspired the high school football talent in the state to awaken on Sunday morning and exclaim, “I want to play in that game someday!”
Who wouldn’t have wanted to play in Saturday’s game — or any of the three since Paul Johnson took over at Tech? I mean, besides defenders. All three games have been high anxiety, thrilling wire jobs. Johnson’s injected drama back into the series.
Before his arrival, Tech could hang close, but couldn’t win.
Take Saturday’s finish. With Georgia trying to run out the clock’s final minute, Johnson chose to eliminate that option and allow Georgia to score. Though excoriated on post game radio by Kevin Butler, Johnson made the right call.
He put the ball back in the hands of his offense-his hands. What better mind to negotiate the length of the field one more time?
Letting Georgia score was no different than the deliberate fouls so prevalent at the end of basketball games. Even Mark Richt admitted he was outfoxed by Johnson. You never know what the offensive mastermind might be up to.
Only two games in this series produced more scoring than Saturday’s game: Tech’s 45-42 win in Athens two years ago, and Tech’s 51-48 overtime win in 1999. Besides 76 points, the two teams rolled up 937 yards of offense, 565 yards rushing, and 50 first downs. You needed a slide rule to keep track.
Of course, if you’d prefer to be a naysayer, the defenses allowed all that offense.
Fair enough. But also bear in mind that every time Tech got two touchdowns behind, its defense found a way to make a stop.
Just as Georgia’s defense stopped Tech at the game’s beginning and end.
Under new defensive coordinators who installed new 3-4 defenses, neither team showed marked improvement this year.
Clearly, it has taken a while for the new schemes and reads to become automatic.
And both coaches need to recruit the right players for the 3-4. Some massive nose tackles would be nice. Anthony Allen carried 29 times for 166 yards against Georgia, and he never veered away from his center or guards.
Or, were the offenses just that good? Everyone in the stadium, including the defenders on the field, knows Tech is going to run the football. Tevin Washington didn’t attempt his first pass until the final minute of the first half. Yet they kept running the ball with great success.
Of course, in keeping with our theme, the one time Georgia defended the option perfectly, the result was a fumble returned for a touchdown by Justin Houston.
Georgia’s offensive coordinator draws his share of criticism, but his offense hasn’t been shirking its job, either. Mike Bobo’s unit did all its scoring in only 21:46 of possession time. He’s guided Aaron Murray to one of the finest seasons a Georgia quarterback has ever had, let alone a freshman quarterback.
And once he discovered Tech’s weakness against defending misdirection runs, Georgia ran the ball for nice yardage itself.
So take whichever side you want. Great offenses or lousy defenses. A sloppy game, or great plays that caused six turnovers.
You can’t argue about the show they gave us.
If two 6-6 teams can stage a show like this, their futures — and the future of their rivalry — are bright indeed.