Georgia Tech never gave any indication it could beat Georgia on Saturday. That’s no surprise, given the gap between the programs. The Yellow Jackets made the visitors sweat for a few minutes at Bobby Dodd Stadium. That’s also no revelation because, at times this season, Tech is plucky enough to punch above its weight.
But, outside of those few moments of fun, nothing much good happened for the Jackets against their rivals. Tech’s football program may see better days, but Saturday was a terrible one to end a bad season. Georgia wasn’t particularly sharp, yet still posted the largest winning margin in the history of the series for results recognized by both schools.
The 52-7 loss is the 10th consecutive defeat for Tech against UGA in Atlanta. This time, there are circumstances that explain why the Jackets couldn’t keep up with Georgia. Coach Geoff Collins has been talking about them all season: injuries, inexperience and (especially) the radical shift from the triple-option offense to a modern system.
He was talking about those things again after the thudding end to Tech’s 3-9 season.
“The people who get it and the people that understand what we are going through, what we inherited, this situation, (they) see the progress we have made every single week all season,” Collins said. “The ones that don’t want to get it, they are not going to get it no matter how many times there is written or said about what we’ve gone through. But I know the future is bright.”
I think most reasonable people get what the Jackets were up against this season. Tech won two ACC games, including a stirring victory at Miami, to mitigate the home loss against a (mediocre) FCS team. In its penultimate home game Tech bounced back to beat N.C. State after losing 45-0 here to Virginia Tech.
If they squint, Tech backers can see bits of progress amid the badness this season. I doubt that made it more palatable for them to watch what happened against Georgia.
The Jackets set a school record with 13 punts. They had 587 yards in punts and 139 yards of offense. Tech went three-and-out on 12 possessions. The Bulldogs needed a total of 10 plays to score the three touchdowns that put the Jackets away in the third quarter.
“One of the cardinal sins of the program is letting go of the rope, and I thought at times in the third quarter, we let it slip and couldn’t find a way to get it back,” Collins said.
The Jackets were buried by their rivals with their stadium more than hall full of visitors. Those Georgia fans who stuck around until the end let out one more “U-G-A” chant after the Bulldogs recovered a muffed punt in the end zone for the final score. But Tech quieted the them in the second quarter.
The Jackets trailed 17-0 when they recovered a muffed punt at Georgia’s 17-yard line. Here was a real chance to score after six three-and-outs that didn’t produce a third down of less than four yards to go. Tech finally got a first down when James Graham, its promising quarterback, ran four yards to the 6-yard line.
Graham passed to tight end Tyler Davis for a touchdown on the next play. Then Collins called for an onside kick, and the Jackets recovered near midfield. Another three-and-out killed that buzz. It returned when Tech forced a fumble by tailback D’Andre Swift and recovered the ball at Georgia’s 42-yard line.
The Jackets converted another third down to get into scoring position. On fourth-and-7, Collins decided to try a 27-yard field goal. It was remarkable that he had a real decision to make. The Jackets had done little on offense, yet Collins was playing to cut the lead to a touchdown four minutes before halftime.
But the field-goal try went wide right. Tech’s frenzied fans went silent. The Bulldogs made it to Tech’s 25-yard line, converting two third downs along the way. They couldn’t convert another with seconds until halftime, so coach Kirby Smart sent out his trusty kicker. But Rodrigo Blakenship missed his try, too.
The Bulldogs still led 17-7 and would get the ball first after halftime. But they slinked away to their locker room for halftime. The Jackets sprinted off the field while celebrating.
Said Collins: “The part that was promising is you go into halftime being ready to go one score down against the No. 4 team in the county with an absolutely depleted roster of guys that are just fighting and battling and giving us a chance to be in that game.”
Those good feelings were fleeting for Tech. Georgia, aided by a pass-interference penalty, scored three plays after halftime. Tech ran five plays before punting again. Georgia’s next drive ended with another Swift fumble, this time near Tech’s goal line, but the Jackets went three-and-out again.
The Bulldogs essentially finished Tech on their next play, Jake Fromm’s 41-yard TD pass to George Pickens. Yet another three-and-out for Tech led to another Fromm TD pass. The Bulldogs led 38-7 and, after another Tech three-and-out, sent in their offensive backups.
After the game Davis, a graduate transfer, got emotional talking about his season at Tech. He’s one of only eight seniors on the roster. The Jackets didn’t even have a tight end before he showed up.
Davis said they now have a better idea about how to move on from the option.
“It will come,” he said. “It takes time. You can’t flip this thing overnight.”
That’s all the Jackets had to hold on to after this awful loss to their rivals at home.
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