The never quit Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets play an inspired game

Before I get to my article, as promised, based on a wager with the UGA correspondent the loser of this game had to say something nice and use the opponent’s logo inside this post.  So I congratulate the dawgs for winning this year’s version of clean old fashioned hate.  Good luck in your bowl game.  Wager completed.  FYI, I did not ask for the 14 point spread as part of this wager.  Either Georgia Tech wins or loses just like the scoreboard flashes at the end of the game!

The drive to Athens started off well enough given the usual congestion on the e/b 316 heading into dawg country.  A few miles prior to entering into the main portion of the city, the traffic once again clogged up so I quickly exited and wound up driving into the south end of the campus.  Now that I was not going to be able to park at my usual location for this game, I followed the signs past several large tailgate gatherings with dawg supporters all clad in red and black. 

Then I saw a sign pointing toward a multi level parking facility that said; free game day parking.  I pulled into the structure and actually found a spot near the roof.  As I was looking around from my perch on the 5th level, I glanced down and saw that there was a long line of shuttle buses all flashing Sanford stadium on their display monitors.  Can it possibly get any better?  Given this fortuitous bit of parking karma, perhaps this was a sign of things to come for the Yellow Jackets tonight at Sanford stadium.

The Yellow Jackets win the toss and elect to defer to the 2nd half.  That’s good as Paul Johnson always likes to have the football to open the 2nd half of the game.  Scott Blair kicks off with a high directional kick that comes down around the 35 yard line amongst a group of bewildered red and black clad dawgs who actually allow the football to hit the ground.  I was shocked that Georgia would let a live football touch the ground and after a frenetic scrum, Georgia Tech comes out of the pile with the recovery on the dawgs 27 yard line.  What a great way to open up the ball game, especially considering that this was going to be a multi touchdown beat down according to all of the experts.  I’m having flashbacks to my parking experience several hours earlier and for a brief moment it appeared that perhaps the parking karma was finding its way onto the field too.

After 3 running plays Georgia Tech is faced with a 4th and 2 and fails to pick up the first down.  The dawgs take over at their 21 yard line and after the Yellow Jacket defense forces a quick 3 and out now they have to punt the football.  Georgia Tech gets the football back inside Georgia territory at the 45 yard line after a nice punt return by Jerrard Tarrant.  The triple option is gobbling up yardage and Orwin Smith goes around the right side for a nice 8 yard run only to have the football stripped from his grasp at the 5 yard line with Georgia recovering.  Another scoring opportunity squandered, and now the Yellow Jackets have left 14 points on the field after 2 gift wrapped opportunities to get on the scoreboard first in this game.

As has been the custom and habit this season after a turnover, the other team finds a way to score and tonight the Yellow Jackets give up a huge 60+ pass reception for a touchdown to somebody not named A.J. Green, and just that fast the Yellow Jackets find themselves down 7 to 0.  Next series we are stopped again after just 3 plays and have to punt the ball back to the dawgs who begin on their own 45 yard line.  A few plays later Aaron Murray narrowly avoids being sacked for a loss and throws a nice 32 yard strike to TE Orson Charles in the end zone just out of the reach of a defensive back.  Now it is 14 to 0 and you can hear the noise level in the stadium increase substantially as the crowd saviors the certain beat down that is about to begin. 

But then a funny thing started to happen; Georgia Tech decided to start playing some football!  Tevin Washington ran the triple option to perfection with everyone hitting their blocks on the edge; A-Backs, wide receivers, and the offensive line was blocking very well opening up some creases inside for B-Back Anthony Allen who ran like Larry Csonka from the 1970 Miami Dolphins. For those too young to know who that was; he was a fullback from Syracuse who weighed about 240 lbs. and ran like a truck with no brakes during the heyday of the Dolphins Super Bowl era.

Give a ton of credit up front to Center Sean Bedford who had an outstanding game blocking as did Omereggie Uzzi, Will Jackson, and Jay Finch at the guard spots!  It was just a great game of blocking by the interior linemen.  Nick Claytor and Austin Barrick were solid on the outside from their tackle spots and sealed the backside to prevent leakage into the backfield on option plays run away from their respective sides.  More importantly; no penalties!  We had 2 movement penalties but both were on extra points tries and although it is a 5 yard penalty, they didn’t stall a drive.

After a well executed 10 play 70+ yard drive by the Yellow Jackets that ended with Tevin Washington taking it in himself 1 yard for the touchdown, the Sanford crowd quickly fell silent.  After all, they have seen this high school, I mean triple option offense 3 times now and with their new defensive coordinator and superior defensive talent they should be able to shut this thing down faster than a maimed Marta train.  Now we have a game; or at least a pause in the beat down.  

Georgia Tech kicks off to the dawgs and they have a nice drive that includes another 30+ yard pass completion to Orson Charles, and they are now down on the Yellow Jacket 5 yard line moving through the defense.  But the defense toughens up and the dawgs are faced with a 4th down and 1.  Coach Richt goes for it and quarterback Aaron Murray is stuffed, and after a measurement confirms that he was short, the crowd is noticeably silent, except for the strong contingent of Yellow Jacket supporters who decided to go support their team despite their adanced knowledge of the inevitable beat down that would ensue.  Now it was time to either make this a competitive contest or acquiesce to the certain victory that would allow the dawgs to become bowl eligible.

The Yellow Jackets ran, and ran, then ran some more; going 95 yards in 12 plays for another touchdown and the game was tied at 14.  Actually they only ran for 83 yards as Tevin Washington threw a 12 yard completion to A-Back Orwin Smith earlier in the drive.  Despite leaving 14 points on the field earlier in the game, the Yellow Jackets fought back and scrounged up 2 touchdowns by going 70+ yards twice and but for 1 pass completion, it was all on the ground courtesy of their 1 room schoolhouse offense; or is it a high school offense?  At any rate it ground up yardage as it had done all year.  While far from perfect, one thing was becoming abundantly clear; this game was not going to be the beat down everyone was predicting!

With about 2 minutes left in the half the dawgs had the football and drove 67 yards in a half dozen plays for another touchdown and a 21 to 14 lead just prior to the end of the 1st half.  The exact same thing happened last year at BDS too.  Give UGA credit as they sensed they were going to be in a dawg fight this game, and needed every point possible as the little engine that could was not going to go down easy in this year’s state title game.  The second half kickoff has the Yellow Jackets starting inside the 20 yard line at their 16.  Now the chess match begins for Paul Johnson as this is where he makes adjustments that matter the most.  First play to open the 2nd half Tevin throws a nice completion to a wide open Stephen Hill who catches it for a 44 yard gain into dawg territory.  9 plays and 84 yards later Georgia Tech has regained the momentum after scoring a touchdown on A-Back Embry Peeples 19 yard toss pitch to the left side that tied the score at 21 apiece.

After the dawgs return the subsequent kickoff into Georgia Tech territory, Caleb “cutback” King gashes the Yellow jacket defense for a 27 yard run.  Next play he gets the ball again and gains about 11 more inside the Georgia Tech 10 yard line before fumbling the football courtesy of a nice tackle by safety Jerrard Tarrant.  You could not only hear but feel the collective gasp that was exhaled by the dawg faithful at this turnover.  Now I will admit that I was all the way on the opposite end on of the stadium on the same side of the field watching this play 80 yards away, but it looked like a legitimate fumble all the way. 

However, just prior to the elementary school offense snapping the football and running a play (pun intended), the normally dapper, cool, and collected Coach Mark Richt was livid on the sidelines and running out onto the field to challenge the call by the officiating crew.  I have never seen him so animated before and you could tell that the pressure was squarely on his shoulders to win this game at all costs.  After all, it was not only the state championship, but another bowl appearance hung in the balance.

Once the Sanford crowd was informed by the officiating crew that Georgia was challenging the call on the field, there was a thunderous roar of approval from the dawg nation.  While I admire the fight and effort of a coach to help his team win a football game, l knew from watching the play that this challenge was an absolute loser.  In fact, I told the fan next to me this was going to cost them a timeout after it was upheld!  A few minutes later the announcement was made that the ruling on the field stands and once again there was another thunderous roar of discontent over the call that was made by the officiating crew.

The UGA defense stopped the Yellow Jackets after a single first down forcing a punt.  On the return freshman Fred Holton jarred the ball loose on the tackle and it was recovered by another true freshman, Isaiah Johnson around the dawg 40 yard line.  Now Georgia Tech has a chance to take their first lead in game after squandering 2 other opportunities in the 1st quarter.  After moving the football all the way down to the 12 yard line, Roddy Jones gains a couple of yards on a pitch to the right side, but fumbles the football a yard away from the sideline.  Several UGA players are pursuing the football within that same narrow area along the sideline and the football will not go out of bounds, even though it was hit 2 or 3 times by different dawg players as it bounced seemingly in a straight line amid all of the chaos.

UGA eventually recovered the football and now the crowd was roaring and they regained some momentum and went down and eventually scored a touchdown on a 4th down and 1 at the Georgia Tech goal line to take a 28 to 21 lead.  However, Mark Richt expended his last time out as the UGA bench was uncertain and disorganized in their decision on 4th down as well as the play to be called.  On the next series Georgia Tech was running the option and Roddy Jones was unable to secure the football on a pitch to the left as he was slammed by an UGA linebacker around the Yellow Jackets 20 yard line.  The football was picked up by another defender and he was able to score despite a tackle by Tevin Washington at the 3 yard line.  Now the dawgs had taken control of the football with a comfortable 35 to 21 lead at the end of the 3rd quarter.  Or had they?

The Yellow Jackets had another 70+ yard drive all on the ground, except a 4 yard pass to Roddy Jones, to cut the lead to 35 to 28 with about 10 minutes left in the game.  Now it was up to the defense to get a stop and give the football back to the offense, as UGA was unable to stop Georgia Tech who were continuing to chew up yardage on the ground.  The defense came through with a big stop as true freshman outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu sacked the quarterback for a nice loss.  UGA punts the football and the Yellow Jackets have the ball on their own 39 yard line. 

First 2 plays it is Anthony Allen running with power up the middle and after 30 yards of effort Georgia Tech was now deep into dawg territory at the 35 yard line.  The ground game was picking up yardage each play and as I watching the offense moving the football I couldn’t stop thinking about those 3 fumbles that led to 21 UGA points.  Now the Yellow Jackets were at the 10 yard line and Anthony Allen powers it up the middle carrying 4 or 5 dawg defenders with him into the end zone.  Section 605 and the rest of the Tech faithful were roaring as now the game was all but tied.  Oh no!  Scott Blair missed the extra point to the left, his first miss in 2 years after 77 straight conversions including 4 tonight.  Dang!

On the kickoff UGA fumbles the football, but apparently tonight the ball had UGA eyes as it bounced directly to another player for a few more yards.  The defense gives up a big run, but holds UGA on a 4th and 1 around the 23 yard line.  Georgia Tech is sacked on successive plays and fails on 4th down turning the football over to the dawgs.  Mark Richt has the offense take a knee and Georgia Tech calls their last time out.  Then for reasons that are unexplainable, instead of taking a knee, UGA runs the football as Georgia Tech watches!  What a great strategy as the only way to get the football back was to encourage them to score, which UGA did.

Whether it was a 1 point or an 8 point lead it didn’t matter as the Yellow Jackets needed the football to attempt to tie the game.  WOW!  That was some clever coaching!  I have never witnessed that before!  What was even more amusing was the reaction of the crowd after they had just realized they had been conned all along!  UGA bit on it like a fresh soup bone.  The crowd tension alone as they realized that they had just played into the Yellow Jackets hands left me with a sense of; do we have a great coach who will not only compete until the game is over, but has the creativity to find unconventional ways to get it done that are not taught anywhere other than his own sense of finding a way to help the team win!  Thank you Coach Johnson!

Tevin completes a few passes and has the Yellow Jackets into UGA territory around the 40 yard line before he threw the game ending interception with about 40 seconds left on the clock.  Game over, UGA wins, but a message was sent: the triple option can be stopped only 2 ways; either Georgia Tech stops itself with fumbles, or you have the bigger, faster, and tougher defensive linemen in the trenches to whip the Yellow Jacket offensive linemen! 

After tonight’s game, that last option is slowly withering away as Paul Johnson’s players come up through the recruiting system.  Tonight those young redshirt freshman and sophomores along the offensive line acquitted themselves quite well!  I also want to praise former walk on defensive tackle Sean Bedford at center, who had an outstanding game blocking in the middle and paving the way for Anthony Allen’s bruising 166 yards up the middle.

Georgia Tech had over 400 yards of rushing on the ground and now that we are finally filling in the offensive line with players recruited by Paul Johnson, it doesn’t matter how many times you have seen this offense because nobody can coach it like Paul Johnson.  Also hats off to the defense that came up big when we needed those stops, and gave us an opportunity to win the game.  Thanks Coach Groh!  Now we have to regroup and get ready for a bowl game.  After the “NEVER QUIT” performance by the Yellow Jackets and THEIR COACHING STAFF, I expect a good fan turnout no matter where we go bowling.  They deserve our support!