It’s Mark Richt 11, Georgia Tech 1

In his last four years as Georgia’s coach, Jim Donnan was 10-2, 9-3, 8-4 and 8-4 and won four bowl games (albeit, second-tier). So revisionist history by some notwithstanding, it’s not as if the program resembled a toxic waste dump 13 years ago or Mark Richt arrived in town riding on a white horse and wearing a Hazmat suit.

But Richt has distinguished himself from Donnan in at least one respect: In 2001, he immediately climbed through the ropes, picked up one of Georgia’s chief rivals, spun them around world wrestling style and tossed them out of the ring and into the third row.

The score is Mark Richt 11, Georgia Tech 1.

Donnan lost his final three meetings against Tech. Richt won his first seven, lost in 2008 and has won the four since.

Think about it this way: Richt has lost more times to Vanderbilt (11-2) than he has Tech.

Georgia fans are not an easy lot to please. The fact that Richt won two SEC championships early in his tenure seemed to be quickly forgotten when the conference began to string together national championships and Georgia appeared to be as much of a spectator to that run as Utah or Northwestern.

But imagine the wrath Richt would feel today if he were losing to the Jackets.

There have been good seasons and bad under Richt. There have been wins and losses against the Bulldogs’ other rivals — Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, South Carolina. (Richt: “It seems like everyone’s a rival for us.”)

But there is a level of acceptance in Athens that accompanies beating Tech, unlike other rivals, even if only because there’s a degree of extreme disdain that accompanies losing to the Yellow Jackets.

Some would call that arrogance.

“They make it pretty clear once you get here you have to beat Tech or you’ll hear about it for the whole rest of the year,” wide receiver Michael Bennett said.

Funny. While the afterglow on North Avenue following Paul Johnson’s first-season win in 2008 has long since worn off, the relative stigma of the game remains in Athens. Consider: Five years later, the loss is still finding its way into Richt’s game-week talking points.

Bennett again: “Coach Richt was talking about how when we lost to them in ’08, just how crappy it was for the next year. I guess back in the day, the series was a little bit closer. Tech kind of beat us a little bit more.”

Bennett is 21 years old. So I’m not sure if by “back in the day” he was referencing George O’Leary’s abbreviated reign of terror (1998-2000) or Bobby Dodd’s significantly longer tenure (which included an eight-win streak over Georgia from 1949-56.)

Richt said he doesn’t remember what he said to his players this week about Tech. But he acknowledged his feelings after the 2008 loss: “It was no fun.” He also articulated why the Tech series is different from others.

“Our other rivals are big, don’t get me wrong. But they’re kind of regional,” he said. “If you go up to North Georgia, they’re talking about Tennessee. If you go down to South Georgia, it’s Florida. This way, it’s Auburn. That way, it’s South Carolina.”


“Everybody agrees Tech is important.”

So how has he been able to take over this series?

“We’ve won most of the games, but I don’t know if I’d say we’ve taken it over,” he said. “There have been so many close games, and we’ve been able to win most of them. I think our guys just understand how important this game is. I don’t know if we’ve had a game where I can say our guys came out flat.”

Maybe. But this week will be an interesting test of emotions for Georgia. The Dogs are out of the SEC East race. They had a draining loss at Auburn two weeks ago. There is no tangible goal left for them in the bowl picture (Gator? Music City? Whatever.)

The fact that quarterback Aaron Murray suffered a season-ending knee injury against Kentucky also leaves the team devoid of its senior leader who would’ve been driven to win his final regular-season game.

But other Georgia players maintain they’re motivated. Bennett said, “We want to beat them bad.” Defensive end Garrison Smith said, “My brother was on that (Tech) team in 2008, so I certainly remember that game.”

Wide receiver Chris Conley got into a Twitter spat the other day when he half-jokingly sought help for a school project: “Any tips on how I can fortify the insides of my Lightsaber hilt so it can withstand a lot impact? Calling all engineers.”

He didn’t mean Tech fans. But, of course, he was inundated by responses.

Conley subsequently Tweeted: “Cloggin my twitter feed with trash,” and, “Why do tech fans gotta tweet at me about stuff? I couldnt care less about your GAvsTech delusions. My projects aren’t football related. Smh.”

He claims he has read, heard or been alerted to mocking comments recently about Georgia’s team, injuries or other general shots. However, he didn’t cite anything specific.

This happens in rivalries. Words on Twitter or a message board are overblown or taken out of context. On occasion, coaches or team officials will fabricate opponent’s quotes merely to motivate their own players.

Conley didn’t need a lit match. “Even before you get here, you realize you don’t want to lose to Tech because you don’t want to hear about it for the next year,” he said.

Richt can tell you what it was like in 2008. The memory lingers in Athens. But it helps to have it sandwiched among 11 wins.