A great season is on the line on Saturday as Ga. Tech and Paul Johnson attempt to improve on their success in Sanford Stadium

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A great season is on the line on Saturday as Ga. Tech and Paul Johnson attempt to improve on their success in Sanford Stadium

Jeff Dantzler
Jeff Dantzler
 
 
To have a great season, Georgia must beat Tech Saturday. Everything is on the line for a Georgia program that is ascending to great heights under Kirby Smart’s watch and accomplishing feats unseen in Athens since the glory days of the early 1980s.
 
 
Tech has won on its last two trips to Athens, a pair of agonizing heart-breakers in games that Georgia had in its grasp. Now had those games not gone down the way they did, who knows if things would be where they are now. The failure of the squib kick in 2014 certainly contributed to the change at the top, and the decisions of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb to return for the incredible 2017 campaign had a lot to do with what happened the Saturday after Thanksgiving the year prior. They were not going out like that.
 
 
Paul Johnson is 3-2 as Tech’s head coach in Athens, the Yellow Jackets lone trio of victories in the series since 2001. In all three of those Georgia losses, the Tech players and fans celebrated in part by ripping off large chunks of Georgia’s famed and storied hedges and souvenirs and spoils. Those images are scorching reminders that no matter to what heights Georgia ascends, there is nothing worse for the sons and daughters of the Red and Black than losing to The Enemy.
 
 
And no foe is more important to beat.
 
 
You can’t be the best in the country if you’re not the best in your state unless of course, you are Alabama, which plays with a different set of rules and criteria and didn’t win their league, division or state, yet there they were.
Winning the state and winning in Sanford Stadium are absolute musts for Georgia to achieve those ultimate lofty goals for Smart’s Dogs. A victory Saturday would make it two straight over the Yellow Jackets and deliver successive perfect records at home for the first time since 2002 and 2003. That’s checking off two big boxes if the Dogs can deliver.
 
 
This Georgia team has the opportunity to join some of the greatest teams in Bulldog history that capped off grand regular seasons with monumental and memorable victories over Tech Between the Hedges.
Two of the biggest came in the 1940s.
 
 
Once-beaten, fifth-ranked Georgia steamrolled the undefeated, second-ranked Yellow Jackets 34-0 in Athens in 1942, clinching the school’s first-ever Southeastern Conference championship. A Rose Bowl win over UCLA sent the Bulldogs to the consensus national championship.
 
 
Just a year removed from the greatest triumph ever, the Allies victory in World War II, the Bulldogs, and Yellow Jackets would again meet with all the chips on the gridiron. Third-ranked Georgia pummeled No. 7 Tech 35-7 to wrap up another SEC title. The Bulldogs then beat North Carolina 20-10 in the Sugar Bowl to finish 11-0, winning every game by double digits.
 
 
Young Vince Dooley had guided Georgia to the SEC championship in 1966, but another ballyhooed match-up with Tech was on the agenda. The once-beaten Bulldogs topped the fifth-ranked undefeated Yellow Jackets 23-14 in Bobby Dodd’s final regular season at the Tech helm. Dooley would wind up with a 3-0 mark against Dodd.
 
 
Georgia would escape with a 13-10 squeaker over the Yellow Jackets in 1976 after wrapping up the SEC title. Two years later in one of the greatest games ever played in Sanford Stadium, Georgia edged Tech 29-28 to wrap up the regular season at 9-1-1. Scott Woerner had the famed punt return, Buck Belue and Amp Arnold connected for the touchdown and two-pointer and David Archer had the game-saving pick.
 
 
Dooley’s undefeated top-ranked SEC champion Dogs of 1980 beat Tech 38-20 to improve to 11-0. The Bulldogs would follow that up with the 17-10 Sugar Bowl victory over Notre Dame to finish 12-0 and capture the undisputed national championship. Two seasons later, Georgia was again 10-0 and ranked No. 1. The Bulldogs, in Herschel Walker’s final game between the hedges, would prevail 38-18 to go 11-0 and capture a third straight conference crown.
 
 
In 2002, Georgia was 10-1 and bound for its first ever SEC Championship Game. There would be no look-ahead, and the Bulldogs blew out the Jackets 51-7. Georgia would then win the SEC and Sugar Bowl to finish No. 3 nationally.
Georgia was in the same boat a decade later, once beaten and bound for the SEC Championship Game. There would again be no look ahead. The Bulldogs blasted Tech 42-10 to make it 11-1.
 
 
Now here the Dogs are again, with Alabama looming in Atlanta and all the dreams alive. In addition to being the biggest game of them all, this battle with Tech, which has arguably the best offense the Bulldogs have faced all season, is a de facto “Sweet 16” game.
 
 
So now, can this Georgia team join so many of its forbearers and topple this ancient foe that so wants to spoil a dream season? It’s going to take the team and the Georgia faithful for four quarters wanting it more and making it happen. The visions of the gold clad enemy ripping out those hedges and shattering Georgia’s dreams, that’s all the motivation the Bulldogs should need.
 
 
 
 

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