ATLANTA — Georgia has a highlight to remember as the finishing touch on an otherwise disappointing regular season.
The Bulldogs knocked Georgia Tech from No. 7 to No. 12 in Sunday’s AP Top 25 with Saturday’s night’s 30-24 upset win.
Georgia (7-5) won redemption for last season’s ugly 45-42 loss to the Yellow Jackets in Athens, which ended a seven-game winning streak in the rivalry.
Georgia Tech players left last year’s win with pieces of Sanford Stadium’s hedges. As an answer, Georgia center Ben Jones walked out of Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday night with a piece of the Grant Field turf in his teeth.
The Bulldogs pulled off the upset by rushing for 339 yards — their high mark in nine seasons under coach Mark Richt.
The first quarter set the pace: While taking a 7-0 lead, the Bullodgs had 13 carries for 98 yards and no pass attempts.
“I was trying to go all night without throwing,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said with a smile.
Georgia’s reliance on the running game was a surprise to everyone. Richt said he wanted to run the ball but “didn’t dream” freshman Washaun Ealey and sophomore Caleb King would have so much success: Ealey had 20 carries for 183 yards and King added 18 carries for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
It was Georgia’s first game in five years with two backs picking up 100 yards rushing.
“I never would have predicted that,” Richt said. “I know we wanted to run the ball. I know we wanted to control the clock as much as possible. We wanted to keep the ball away from Georgia Tech as much as we could. They’re a team that grinds the clock and has long drives. We wanted to at least do a decent job in that area.”
Georgia had 10 straight running plays — gaining 79 yards — on its opening touchdown drive.
“I think the team run helped the offense as much as the defense,” Richt said. “We did it for the defense, but I think it helped the offense as well.”
The Yellow Jackets had 205 yards rushing, including only 80 in the first half. Josh Nesbitt led Tech with a modest total of only 41 yards rushing. Jonathan Dwyer had 14 carries for only 33 yards.
Georgia showed better discipline in its defensive scheme.
“I’m very happy for the entire defensive staff,” Richt said when asked about defensive coordinator Willie Martinez. “I thought they did a great job. We all know how difficult it is to prepare for this offense with this (short) notice.”
Martinez says the Bulldogs worked a full year, not just a week, to prepare for their chance for redemption.
“It really affected us all year,” Martinez said of last year’s humbling loss. “We lost a game to our number one rival and we’ve been working for 365 days. We didn’t work for it for just one week. Everybody keeps talking about just one week. Our guys did a good job to prepare for 365. We wanted to win badly tonight. We know who the No. 1 school is on our schedule that we’ve got to beat and we did it.”
Richt wouldn’t reveal any plans for possible changes on his staff of assistant coaches.
“I know we’ve got some areas to improve in,” Richt said. “Right now I’m just going to enjoy this victory.”
When asked about his future, Martinez said “I’m at Georgia. We have to get ready to prepare for the next ballgame.”