Georgia and Georgia Tech treated everyone to A Tale of Four Teams Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Georgia’s 41-34 win in double-overtime tugged everyone through the full gamut of emotions. Players, coaches, alumni and fans of both teams experienced the depths of despair and the heights of happiness during the course of one single, gripping contest.
“It was a tough game,” Tech coach Paul Johnson observed in opening his post game press conference, transcribed by cstv.com. “I was proud of our guy’s effort. It was a hard game to lose. It was a gut-wrenching game. It would have been for either side. Really not a whole lot to say about it.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt was slightly more loquacious in his opening remarks. “I’m very thankful for the victory. It was a great game. I want to give credit to Georgia Tech and the job they did. They came out ready to play and took that 20-point lead. They were playing extremely well. We were just fighting for our lives.”
When Tech’s Harrison Butker chipped in a 22-yard field goal with 6:33 left in the first half, Tech led 20-0. And the game wasn’t that close.
Tech had four scores in four possessions. Tech had run 32 plays, Georgia 16. Tech had gained 249 yards, Georgia 45. Tech had 10 first downs, Georgia three. Tech had held the ball for 16:35, Georgia for 6:52.
More dominance: On Tech’s third play of the game, on third and eight, the Georgia faithful were treated to the familiar, though uncomfortable, sight of a defensive back in hot pursuit of a wide-open receiver.
Cornerback Sheldon Dawson finally corralled Darren Waller 68-yards downfield, at the 6-yard line, and Tech scored two plays later.
Second possession: On third and 10, Vad Lee found Robert Godhigh near the left sideline. Godhigh sped 43 yards downfield, setting up Butker’s first field goal.
Tech’s third possession lasted but a single play. This time Dawson waved at DeAndre Smelter as he cruised by en route to a 26-yard touchdown catch.
“I just saw how he was playing me,” Smelter told cstv.com. “He was playing me kind of outside, so I just wanted to give him a little bit outside and cut off at a good angle so nobody else could get to the ball.”
“We had a good game plan coming in,” Lee added, in a classic understatement. “We knew that we were going to try to hit some big pass plays, and we did in the beginning.
“If only we could have hit some of those plays towards the end where we could have finished.”
Lee nailed it. In rolling up the 20-0 lead, Lee completed 5 of 10 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions.
From that point on, Lee was 6 of 14 for only 61 yards (with a long gain of 15), no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Down 20-0, the Bulldog nation implored Richt to light a fire under his slumbering troops. If ever there seemed a perfect time for a hurled headset, this seemed it.
Instead, Mister Serenity prevailed. Richt remained totally calm, completely cool. He exuded a quiet resolve that his team would right itself.
“I knew early on offensively that we had some people open, but we couldn’t stay in there long enough to get the ball thrown to those guys,” Richt told cstv.com. “I felt like it was going to be a matter of time before we could make some things happen offensively.”
New quarterback Hutson Mason drove the Bulldogs 86 yards in 69 seconds for a score right before the half. Finally relaxed, Mason began the second half leading a lengthy drive that ended with a field goal.
Now the game was on.
It wasn’t like Tech folded. The Jackets continued to play well on both sides of the ball. A seven-minute, 75-yard drive for a key touchdown extended Tech’s lead to 27-17 early in the fourth quarter.
No, you must give credit to Georgia for raising the level of its play. And for this team to do so after all it had been through, not only on Saturday but all season, speaks to the incredible resolve of these Dogs.
“It’s a little bit of redemption for the way the Auburn game ended, to have this win,” wide receiver Michael Bennett told cstv.com. “To see our team come back the way it did was just amazing.”
“I’m so proud of us for coming back from 20-0,” added linebacker Ramik Wilson. “We’re relentless. We never give up. It was a long, hard game, but we kept fighting and playing Georgia football. When you finish the drill, good things happen.”
“One thing about this team, no matter who we’re playing, we’re going to keep fighting and never quit,” said Dawson. “If you do that you never know what can happen. It’s not about if you fall, because you’re going to fall in football. It’s about getting back up.”
That’s exactly what Dawson and his teammates did Saturday.
Denton Ashway is a contributing columnist for The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays.