ATHENS — Aaron Murray threw for three touchdowns, Justin Houston returned a fumble 18 yards for a score and Georgia Tech missed a tying extra point, giving Georgia the win it needed to be eligible for a bowl, a 42-34 victory over the Yellow Jackets on Saturday night.
This one was a comedy of errors that surely wasn't very funny for the fans of either team, both finishing disappointing seasons. But Georgia (6-6) held on to beat its state rival for the second year in a row, benefiting from a rare miscue by one of Georgia Tech's most reliable players.
The Yellow Jackets (6-6) were poised to tie the game at 35 after Anthony Allen bulled into the end zone for an 8-yard run with 4:57 remaining. But Scott Blair yanked the extra point wide left, ending a streak of 77 straight PATs and leaving the Bulldogs with a one-point lead.
Georgia tacked on a touchdown run by Washaun Ealey that wasn't contested by the Georgia Tech defense, which just stood around so the Yellow Jackets could get one more shot on offense.
Tevin Washington, starting his third straight game in place of injured Joshua Nesbitt, guided Georgia Tech across midfield in the final minute. But Houston finished off a huge game with one last big play, dropping back into pass coverage and intercepting a pass over the middle with 35 seconds left.
Anthony Allen rushed for 166 yards to lead Georgia Tech, which ran a staggering 92 plays for 512 yards and controlled the ball for nearly 38 minutes. But too many mistakes doomed the Yellow Jackets, who also lost three fumbles - each of which were followed by Georgia touchdowns.
The only solace for the Yellow Jackets, and this isn't much, is that they had locked up eligibility for their 14th straight bowl appearance the week before.
Georgia hardly had a clean game, muffing the opening kickoff to give the ball immediately to the Yellow Jackets and fumbling four times, two of which were recovered by the Yellow Jackets.
In fact, both teams lost fumbles inside the opponent's 10-yard line.
Murray, who sustained a bruised knee and sternum in a loss to Auburn two weeks ago, had an off week to recover and showed no signs he was hurting.
He was 15 of 19 for 271 yards, including touchdowns of 66 yards to Kris Durham and 32 yards to Orson Charles, giving Georgia a 14-0 lead in the opening quarter.
After Georgia Tech rallied with TD runs by Washington and Roddy Jones, Murray hooked up with Bruce Wiggins for a 3-yard touchdown that left the Bulldogs ahead 21-14 at halftime.
Georgia Tech, which rushed for 411 yards, came out throwing on the opening possession of the second half. Washington completed a 44-yard pass to Stephen Hill and Embry Peeples finished off the drive with a 19-yard touchdown run that tied the score again.
Ealey scored the first of his two touchdowns, running it in from the 1 on fourth down in the final minute of the third quarter.
Just 35 seconds later, the Bulldogs were celebrating again.
Washington pitched to Jones, who was hammered by Akeem Dent as the ball popped loose. Houston scooped it up and dove into the end zone with Washington holding on, putting Georgia up 35-21.
Back came the Yellow Jackets. Washington guided a 71-yard drive that ended with the sophomore quarterback running it in for his second 1-yard TD of the game. After Georgia went three-and-out, Georgia Tech marched right back down the field for Allen's TD.
But Blair's normally chip-shot kick turned out to be the biggest mistake of all.