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Ashway: Georgia remains ‘special’ against Tech
Denton Ashway
DENTON ASHWAY

Georgia placed an exclamation point on its perfect regular season Saturday with a methodical 45-0 defeat of Georgia Tech.

Afterward, quarterback Stetson Bennett put things in proper perspective.

“It means a lot,” Bennett told Georgiadogs.com. “It’s the first 12-0 season since 1982 [sic]. It’s a big accomplishment. Now all the fun starts!”

Now Georgia can finally focus on settling a few scores with Alabama and moving on to the College Football Playoff. And that’s been the goal of this team all along.

“What we have done in the regular season is all good,” linebacker Nakobe Dean told the Associated Press. “But if we don’t finish it the right way, none of this matters.”

True enough. It won’t matter that Georgia is 12-0 for the first time since defeating Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl ending the 1980 season. Or that they’ve gone undefeated in the regular season for the first time since the 1982 team went 11-0. Or that this has become the fourth Georgia team, adding Charley Trippi’s 1946 squad, to finish a perfect regular season with double-digit victories.

Nor will it matter that a victory over Alabama this Saturday will tie Georgia’s record 17-game winning streak fashioned from 1945 to 1947.

Georgia remained focused Saturday to the point of realistically ending the Tech contest after 20 minutes. That’s when Georgia’s outstanding freshman tight end, Brock Bowers, took a perfect slant pass from Bennett and sped untouched down the middle of the field for a 77-yard touchdown.

That made the score 24-0. Georgia had scored on all four possessions and amassed 261 yards in 22 plays. That’s nearly 12 yards per snap.

Tech, meanwhile, had punted on all four of its possessions and gained 22 yards in 14 plays. That’s 1.57 yards per play.

The Jackets’ next drive proved interesting. The Jackets gained 39 yards, but it took 12 plays and nearly eight minutes. Tech ended the half with its fourth three-and-out in six possessions.

By the time the game mercifully ended, both teams had run 51 plays.

Georgia gained 463 yards. Tech gained 166.

Then there’s this: Georgia shut out Tech for the first time since 1964, Vince Dooley’s inaugural season.

We could extend this exercise, but you get the point. In his third season at Tech, coach Geoff Collins seems to have done nothing but raise concerns among the Tech faithful. Tech lost to Georgia by the same 45-point margin as in Collins’ first season. The gap hasn’t narrowed talent-wise or statistically.

The clearest indicator of discontent was the multitude of red-clad Georgia fans adorning Bobby Dodd Stadium. Tech fans stayed away in droves. The sight was disheartening to Tech’s players.

“Seeing all the red on senior day and my last game here doesn’t feel great,” tweeted cornerback Tre Swilling. “Everything these seniors went through, that wasn’t good. As a Georgia Tech fan, it has been hard, but those who were there supporting us is all we care about.”

Tech lost its final six games by an aggregate of 131 points, though 100 came in the final two games. That, despite dispensing with a trio of the coaching staff, won’t endear Collins to the Tech faithful.

For Georgia, it’s now 12 down and three to go. Three more games to prove just how special this team is. Three more games to etch this team’s place forever in Bulldog history.

It just so happens that 15 is the number of stadium stair runs the Dawgs did during summer workouts.

“I don’t think anyone brings up the fact that we had to run the stadium stairs 15 times,” safety Lewis Cine told Anthony Dasher of Rivals.com last week. “That’s 15 times for the number of games we’re going to be playing, which says a lot. We have a goal, and we’re going to see it through.”

Running stadium steps is a rigorous workout, especially for large folks like guard Warren Ericson.

“I remember it because I was at number seven,” Ericson told Dasher. “I got down to the bottom of the steps, and my legs could not stop shaking. I said, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get eight more in.’ Then I had James Cook, Jamaree [Salyer] and other guys in my steps just pushing me and saying, ’Hey, man, let’s go. We got this. We got your back.’”

Conditioning coach Scott Sinclair offered to allow the lineman to go halfway up the stairs. “But everyone said, ‘No, we got this together. We’re all in it together, and we’re going to push each other,” Ericson continued. “We went back to the full top, and that’s when I kind of knew this was a special thing. That when times are tough, I have my brothers to lift me up and push through.”

A special team, indeed. We’re about to find out just how special.