Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Collins, whom athletic director Todd Stansbury confirmed Wednesday will return for his fourth season, has overseen a third consecutive three-win season, this one ending at 3-9. Ending the season with a six-game losing streak, Collins’ record at Tech is now 9-25, a mark that has drawn comparisons with Bill Lewis, whose three-year turn at the Tech wheel (1992-94) is widely considered the worst regime in school history. Stansbury declined to comment after the game.
Georgia (12-0) advances to the SEC Championship game Saturday against No. 3 Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“Hats off to our opponent,” Collins said. “That’s a really good team. They’re obviously the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. They’re really good at every single phase of the game, and when we don’t play our best, that’s what happens to us.”
Compared with recent games this season, the Jackets didn’t appear to make as many mistakes – no turnovers and what appeared to be more coordinated play in the secondary – but it mattered little. Georgia’s dominant defense was no match for a Tech offense that sent out a patchwork offensive line, also was without quarterback Jeff Sims (injury) and lost star running back Jahmyr Gibbs midway through the first half. Moreover, Tech’s wide receiver group was plagued with flu-like symptoms.
The Jackets finished with a season-low 171 yards of offense and managed one play longer than 15 yards, a 40-yard completion in the third quarter from quarterback Jordan Yates (starting in Sims’ place) to tight end Dylan Leonard. Against a swift, hard-hitting and disciplined defense, the Jackets rarely had space to break free.
“Those are going to be tough games, but as a competitor, those are the type of games you want to play in,” said Yates, who started in place of Sims. “You just hope for a different result.”
In nine drives, Tech reached Georgia territory three times, punting once and turning it over on downs twice. The Jackets broke from their norm by huddling and using most of the play clock in an effort to shorten the game. Running back Jordan Mason, possibly playing in his final game, ran with power and will into the teeth of the UGA defensive front. All of his body-sacrificing play netted him 59 yards.
On defense, the Jackets were not as compromised as they had been in recent weeks. But they still permitted Georgia to score on touchdown plays of 77 and 59 yards, the former a reception by tight end Brock Bowers in the second quarter and the latter a run by running back Kenny McIntosh in the third quarter.
Georgia gained 463 yards, scoring seven times on its first nine possessions, including six touchdowns. Collins said that shortages on the defensive line handcuffed the defense in how it could line up against the Bulldogs.
“Obviously, I don’t need to go into all the things with the depth or injuries or anything,” Collins said. “Nobody cares, so it doesn’t matter.”
Gibbs, whom Collins said after the game was “banged up,” saw his pursuit of the Tech single-season record for all-purpose yards and the statistical championship in FBS for most all-purpose yards per game end quietly. Needing 78 yards to pass the great Eddie Lee Ivery and his 1978 mark of 1,879 yards, Gibbs compiled but three yards, which dropped his season average from 163.8 yards per game to 150.4, which all but assures he will hand over the No. 1 spot he had gained after last weekend.
As expected, Bobby Dodd Stadium was filled mostly with red-clad Bulldogs fans, a reflection of Tech supporters’ dismay with the season and Collins and likely a reluctance to witness the Bulldogs’ march to the College Football Playoff. It was perhaps the heaviest infiltration of UGA fans into Grant Field that the series has ever witnessed.
Collins is expected to make changes to his staff as early as Sunday.
A difficult, disappointing season comes to an end.
“Winning is hard,” cornerback Tre Swilling said. “As we watch football, we go out there, we just expect certain teams to go out there and win and make it look easy, but winning’s actually hard.”