Georgia Tech’s mistakes play key role in loss to Georgia

ATHENS -- Georgia Tech had little margin for error against No. 1 Georgia on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

Tech committed five glaring errors in Tech’s 37-14 loss. Four of them were punished by the Bulldogs (12-0), who didn’t need the help because they came in to the game having won the past four meetings between the in-state rivals by an average of 36.3 points, and were favored to win by 36.5.

“The defense was put in bad situations a couple of times and really, (had their) backs up against the wall and came through and you were able to hold them to a field goal in a couple of those instances,” Tech coach Brent Key said.

ExploreNo. 1 Georgia holds off early Tech threat for convincing victory

Of the mistakes that Georgia most punished, the first was a dropped pass by tight end Dylan Leonard on Tech’s second drive, with Leonard open and in Georgia territory. Tech (5-7) was leading 7-0 after bravely converting a fourth-and-9 at Georgia’s 41-yard line on its first drive. Tech followed that with a 7-yard touchdown run by quarterback Taisun Phommachanh.

“We practiced it starting on Thursday,” quarterback Zach Gibson said of the opening drive. “Walking through it, we felt very comfortable with the plans going in and the first down. We executed on the first drive, and we just couldn’t sustain after that. It’s unfortunate because the defense played lights out, and this one is on the offense for sure.”

The Yellow Jackets forced a three-and-out on Georgia’s first possession and were again marching.

On first-and-10 at its 41, Gibson threw to Leonard, who was running open down the middle of the field near Georgia’s 40-yard line. Leonard appeared to look around as he tried to catch the ball. The pass fell incomplete. The drive stalled with the Jackets losing a chance to build on their surprising lead.

Tech’s second big mistake happened on the ensuing punt. Tech’s Sirad Bryant threw down a Georgia player on the return. That was legal. But then Bryant appeared to attempt to spear with his helmet the Georgia player. The targeting penalty gave the Bulldogs an additional 15 yards, moving them to the 44-yard line. The drive ended with a 30-yard field that cut Tech’s lead to 7-3 with 18 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Georgia 37, Georgia Tech 14

Tech’s special teams, a problem under previous coach Geoff Collins, were again responsible for the next mistake that Georgia punished. Facing fourth-and-5 on its 30-yard line, Tech punter David Shanahan dropped the low snap. He was tackled by several Bulldogs at the 17-yard line. Georgia capitalized with a 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal from Stetson Bennett to Brock Bowers to increase its lead to 20-7 with 5:51 remaining in the third quarter.

Perhaps wilting under the pressure, running back Jamie Felix fumbled on first-and-10 at Tech’s 25-yard line on its next possession. Georgia’s Robert Beal recovered. The Bulldogs took advantage by converting a 36-yard field goal to take a 23-7 lead with 4:11 remaining in the third.

“You’re looking at two consecutive series where the ball, field position-wise, never really crossed the 30,” Key said. “We’re playing with one hand tied behind our back with that.”