The play was called “58 toss throwback.” Georgia Tech A-back Qua Searcy never got to the throwback part, and as a result wove himself into the history of the Tech-Georgia rivalry.
Scoring the last-second touchdown in dramatic and unlikely fashion that (along with Harrison Butker’s PAT) beat the Bulldogs last year in Athens has granted him a spot in a club of limited membership. Searcy joined the likes of Roddy Jones, John Dewberry, Gary Lee and the duo of Butker and D.J. White as legendary Bulldogs slayers.
“I’ve actually heard (about the play) every day since,” Searcy said Monday. “So very frequently.”
Searcy’s home in Lamar County, between Atlanta and Macon, is Bulldogs country. His touchdown (nor the interception of UGA quarterback Jacob Eason by cornerback Lance Austin, also of Lamar County) has not turned the populace toward the Yellow Jackets, though he acknowledges they’ve been supportive of him, Austin and Austin’s twin brother Lawrence, a nickel back.
“They say it sucks to lose, but if they had to lose, it’s best to lose to a native,” Searcy said. “I hear it. They give me grief about it every time I go home.”
Searcy told the Tech website in December that he received a standing ovation in his first class on the Monday after the win over the Bulldogs. When he attended a middle-school play with his girlfriend, he was asked to come backstage to take a photo with the young dramatists.
“I’ve had little kids come up to me,” Searcy said. “They knew of me, but after that game, they just kind of looked at me as a mentor and I’ve just been trying to lead them in the right direction.”
At Lamar County High School, several classrooms are decorated with photos of his touchdown, school athletic director Michael Oberg wrote in an e-mail. After the game last November, Oberg said hundreds of Lamar County residents posted on how social media that, if their beloved Bulldogs had to lose to Tech, then that was the only way they’d want it.
“It seemed to transcend loyalty to a sports team, and it became pride in a small town,” Oberg wrote. “It was a rare sight to see diehard Georgia fans celebrate in that moment.”
About the play: On a third-and-goal from the UGA 6-yard line, coach Paul Johnson called the gadget play, which Thomas said he hadn’t run his entire career. There were 36 seconds left with Tech down 27-21. Thomas tossed to Searcy, who ran right.
“By the time I got the ball, I looked back and there were like five guys on (Thomas),” Searcy said Monday. “So, by instincts, you try to make a play. Really, I was just trying to get back to the line of scrimmage, but the middle just opened up so much and I just jumped.”
Searcy leaped from about the 4-yard line and, with the ball in both hands, extended it to the goal line. The ball barely crossed for a touchdown and a 27-all tie. Butker’s PAT provided the winning margin.
But on to the next Tech-Georgia game. Besides bragging rights, Tech needs to win to secure bowl eligibility.
“No matter who we’re playing, we’ve still got to get that sixth win,” Searcy said. “I feel like there’s definitely a lot of pressure on us, but just got to go out here and prepare this week and execute.”
Searcy undoubtedly will be a big part of Tech’s plans again. Searcy has the most carries of any A-back (30) and has averaged 7.0 yards per attempt with one touchdown. Against Georgia last season, he had a career-high eight rushing attempts for 40 yards and a 39-yard reception that contributed to the touchdown drive that preceded the game-winning score.
Against a UGA defense that ranks fifth nationally in total defense and fourth in scoring defense and has been devoting practice time all season to Tech’s spread-option offense, the Jackets may have to summon their most efficient game of the season.
“We can’t hurt ourselves,” Searcy said. “If Coach (Johnson) calls something, we’ve just got to make it work.”
Searcy has some experience with that.