ATLANTA — Georgia came out running and never slowed down.
When it was done, the Bulldogs had a huge upset that took some of the sting out of their disappointing season, while the Atlantic Coast Conference was left with a huge letdown for a championship game.
Taking a page out of Georgia Tech's playbook, Georgia rushed for 339 yards to beat the seventh-ranked Yellow Jackets 30-24 Saturday night. Freshman Washaun Ealey rambled for 183 yards and Caleb King broke loose for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bulldogs (7-5) reclaimed state bragging rights in a tumultuous year and handed the Yellow Jackets (10-2) a huge setback in what has been their best season in nearly two decades. The nation's second-best rushing team was held to 205 yards — 109 below its average.
"It hurts. I know I'm hurting," Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett said. "We were a higher-ranked team, but I think we got complacent.
The loss completed a dismal day for the two teams that will meet next week in Tampa, Fla., for the ACC title. Earlier, Clemson was blown out by South Carolina 34-17.
Ealey and King left little doubt what they had in mind. The freshman had written "I Run" in black under his left eye and "This State" under his right eye. King has the same words written on his arms.
"We had a lot of success (running)," said Ealey, who had already set a new career high by early in the second quarter. "I hope we do it a lot in the future."
Georgia set the tone right from the opening kickoff. The first 10 plays? All runs, including a 35-yarder by Ealey and a 6-yard touchdown for King.
The offensive line was dominating, pushing around the Yellow Jackets to open one big hole after another.
High-scoring Georgia Tech, averaging 36 points a game, looked totally out of sync throughout the first half and put themselves in another deep hole, just as they did against Georgia a year ago. In that one, Georgia Tech fell behind 28-12 at the midway point but rallied for a 45-42 victory than snapped a seven-year losing streak against their state rival.
"I just wanted to get this game," said Georgia safety Reshad Jones, who took a lot of heat for missed tackles in last year's loss. "It was real personal. I wanted redemption."
This time, the Yellow Jackets went to the locker room down 17-3. They couldn't make it all the way back.
After Georgia's Blair Walsh was wide left on a potentially clinching field goal from 55 yards out, only his second miss of the season, Georgia Tech converted a fourth down at the Georgia 46 with plenty of time to run it the rest of the way.
But coach Paul Johnson abandoned the triple option, taking three straight deep shots through the air — all incomplete — to leave the Yellow Jackets facing fourth-and-10. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt, who returned to the game on a gimpy ankle after being injured in the first half, found Demaryius Thomas wide open along the sideline for what would have been enough for the first down.
But Georgia Tech's top receiver let the ball slip through his hands with no one around.
Georgia has been one of the nation's most disappointing teams, losing more games than it had in any season during Mark Richt's nine years as coach. Amid calls for him to shake up his coaching staff, the Bulldogs defied their critics and pushed the coach's record against Georgia Tech to 8-1.
For good measure, the Bulldogs likely improved their bowl prospects, though it will still be a postseason trip below their expectations.
"I know we've got some areas to improve in," Richt said. "Right now, I'm just going to enjoy this victory."
The Yellow Jackets are still in the same position as they were before the game, knowing a win in the ACC title game likely sends them to the Orange Bowl.
"We need to get over this fast," Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer said. "We have a bigger game to worry about."
King was part of an exciting sequence early in the third quarter, when Georgia Tech could have launched another comeback but were instead answered right away.
The Yellow Jackets closed to 17-10 on their third play from scrimmage when Thomas turned a short pass into a 77-yard touchdown. He caught a throw just across the line, stiff-armed Vance Cuff and took off down the sideline for his 10th play of the year covering at least 50 yards.
But Georgia took the very next snap to the house. King got the handoff, blew through yet another big opening up the middle and zigzagged his way down the field for a 75-yard touchdown.
Georgia Tech never caught up. Walsh added field goals of 38 and 43 yards to offset a pair of Georgia Tech touchdowns: Dwyer's 5-yard run and a 1-yard sneak by Nesbitt.
The Bulldogs had two 100-yard runners in a game for the first time since 2004 and piled up the most rushing yards of Richt's tenure. By comparison, Nesbitt was Georgia Tech's top rusher with a mere 41 yards. Dwyer, the reigning ACC player of the year, was held to 33 yards on 14 carries.
When it was over, Georgia got back at the Yellow Jackets for snatching pieces of the famed Sanford Stadium hedge following their 2008 upset. This time, defensive lineman Kade Weston planted a huge flag with a "G'' near the middle of the field.
"To see them walk out with pieces of hedges in their mouths," said Georgia quarterback Joe Cox, "that motivates you to want to win."