With a little help from old Georgia foes, Georgia Tech gets the rout it needed

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets wide receiver Dominick Blaylock (12) returns a punt in the first half during a football game against South Carolina State at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 9, 2023.   (Bob Andres for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Bob Andres

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Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets wide receiver Dominick Blaylock (12) returns a punt in the first half during a football game against South Carolina State at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 9, 2023. (Bob Andres for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Bob Andres

Alliances change with the wind in college football these days. Yesterday’s bitter rival can slip into the transfer portal, beam the 70 miles from Athens to Atlanta – mercifully bypassing Ga. 316 we presume – change into a new color scheme with chameleon-like ease and become today’s shining hope.

A season ago, Dominick Blaylock was catching a few passes for Georgia, a nice third-year player trying to catch back up to his freshman self.

On Saturday, in Georgia Tech white and gold, Blaylock broke open running across the back of the end zone, pulled down Haynes King’s throw as easy as picking low-hanging fruit, and scored for the first time as a Yellow Jacket. With that, he matched his Georgia touchdown total from 2022.

It took a little time for him to warm to the subject, but Tech coach Brent Key eventually relented and gave up one nugget about the indoctrination of a one-time Georgia Bulldog to life on The Flats.

“It was in jest,” Key said, “when Dom caught his touchdown pass today, he came over and I said, ‘Now, you’re official.’”

Former Georgia tight end Brett Seither already passed that demanding initiation, scoring in Tech’s loss to Louisville last week. In case anyone missed that, he rinsed and repeated against South Carolina State on Saturday, his 8-yard touchdown reception being the second of a two-play, 75-yard “drive” that was the exclamation point at the end of the first half.

“They’re Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets,” pronounced Key, lest there be any confusion.

There have been times in the recent painful past when Tech would slide in a loss to, say, a Northern Illinois or The Citadel. So, little here is ever taken for granted. But Key’s first team playing its first game at home Saturday would not dabble in embarrassment.

His Jackets came out and handled their business, which centered on flushing the psyche-wrenching loss to Louisville a week before and pushing around South Carolina State as any Power Five bully should.

The 48-13 final at least partially achieved the coach’s goal of putting something on tape that they could watch and “go back and say this is how we’re supposed to do this, this is how we’re supposed to play the game, this is how we’re supposed to play when we come out at halftime.”

Against lesser competition Tech on Saturday made a field goal (two, in fact), got a tackle for a loss (four, in fact), stayed on the gas throughout the second half, scoring on a 55-yard pass on the first play of the third quarter. All things they couldn’t do a week ago against Louisville inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. So consider improvements made.

The most worrisome question regarding Tech actually arose before Saturday’s kickoff, as the rain poured and the thunder rumbled and a weather delay stretched into its second hour.

There in the Bobby Dodd Stadium south end zone, one group of frat pledges dressed in their coats and ties performed belly flop slides down the aisles. In another segment of the student section, 50 or so shirtless souls chanted and cavorted in the face of imminent electrocution and obituaries that would hint of a stupid death. Saner thousands, meanwhile, had sought cover in the concourses.

And then it occurred: Man, are these really the people I want building my bridges?

But, when toe finally did meet leather and the football folks were back in control of the stadium, the Jackets produced mostly satisfying answers. Just as they were supposed to here at the soft part of the schedule. Next week at Ole Miss will be an altogether different kind of trial.

In an era of unchecked immigration throughout college football, what every follower must do this month is get acquainted with the new help and hope to find them likable.

There was plenty Saturday to indicate that learning the names of the Jackets transfers would be worth the effort, as well as forgiving them all their past affiliations.

A quarterback import from Texas A&M named Haynes King threw for 290 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions – two of those to a pair of transfers from Georgia – and the value of divine portal intervention becomes apparent. Help in today’s college football can fall from the most unexpected cloud, even that darkest one marked by a big G.

Neither former Bulldog was made available to the media after Saturday’s game. Both Blaylock and Seither have been shielded through these early days.

So it was left to one long-tenured Tech player to speak for how they have been welcomed into the new family, as Hatfields instantly become McCoys through the magic of the transfer portal.

“Once they’re here, they’re part of our gang. We celebrated with them like they’ve been here for years,” said rush end Kyle Kennard, he of an interception and a forced fumble Saturday. Some old hands still contribute, too.

Saturday was certainly a time for Tech to celebrate new faces in new places. Mindful of the fact that everything in college football now seems ever changing and that the portal swings both ways.

Credit: Chad Bishop

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