Now, the Georgia Bulldogs can talk about the Alabama Crimson Tide as long as they want.
The 5th-ranked Dawgs of Kirby Smart were never more convincing than at Sanford Stadium Saturday when they put a beatdown on the state rival Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets from the opening whistle to closing gun, streaking to a 38-7 halftime lead and then pushing that advantage to 45-7 in the third quarter before Tech struck for two late scores against the Georgia reserves in the game’s final eight minutes.
In case that 38-7 halftime tally looks familiar, that was the final score of last year’s pummeling of Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Having capped their second consecutive 11-1 season and also going unbeaten at home for the second straight year, the Bulldogs now prepare for the monumental challenge of attempting to knock off No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Alabama next Saturday in the SEC Championship Game at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Most of the talk leading up to the latest version of “Clean Old Fashioned Hate” concerned Georgia Tech’s nation-leading triple-option offense that came to town averaging 353 rushing yards per game. And, subsequently, how would the Bulldogs be able to slow down the Tech attack and therefore keep the Jackets from spoiling Georgia’s playoff aspirations.
Well, the Bulldog defense not only slowed down the Tech offense for a second straight year but, also, completely stymied the Jackets’ running game by limiting it to a measly 128 yards, a full 225 yards below that 353 average. And Smart gave all due credit to members of the UGA scout team for its unsung effort in preparing the defense for facing a style of offense a team rarely ever sees this day and time in college football.
And it was the Georgia offense, not Tech’s, that completely stole the show on a chilly afternoon for football between the Sanford Stadium hedges. With Jake Fromm completing all seven of his passing attempts in the first quarter and ending the half with 12-of-15 completions for 171 yards and three touchdowns and the Bulldogs also rushing for 172 yards on the strength of 67 yards by Elijah Holyfield and 66 by D’Andre Swift, Georgia had put this one out of suspense by the intermission break in building its 31-point lead.
When freshman Justin Fields took the quarterback reins from Fromm with 1:18 left in the third period, the Bulldogs’ sophomore quarterback had capped another stellar performance with 175 passing yards on 13-of-16 completions and a career-high four touchdown passes.
Fromm’s final scoring toss came on a 4-yard strike to Riley Ridley – Ridley’s second touchdown of the game – with still 10:20 left in the third and lifted Georgia up by 45-7 at the time. Ridley’s first score came on the Bulldogs’ opening drive of the game, on a 5-yard pass from Fromm as Georgia was simply unstoppable in the first half when the Bulldogs scored all six times they possessed the football. Swift had a 1-yard run, and following a 100-yard kickoff return for a score by Tech freshman Juanyeh Thomas, the Bulldogs got a 12-yard scoring pass from Fromm to Jeremiah Holloman, a 44-yard Fromm-to-Mecole Hardman touchdown bomb, an 8-yard run by Holyfield and, a 25-yard field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship on the final play of the second quarter.
Until the Yellow Jackets manufactured the late scores on a 3-yard run by Qua Searcy and TaQuon Marshall’s 28-yard pass to the end zone to Brad Stewart (with just 39 seconds to play), the gang-tackling Georgia defense had checked the Tech offense without a score from scrimmage.
And while the Bulldogs were limiting the Jackets to a meager 219 yards of total offense, Georgia once again soared over the 400-yard mark on the day. With Swift (105 yards on 14 carries) eclipsing the 100-yard rushing barrier for the fourth time in the past five games and Holyfield adding 79 yards on nine carries, Georgia clicked for 285 yards on the ground Saturday.
Tight end Isaac Nauta, Fromm’s favorite target in the one-minute offense that led to Blankenship’s field goal in the last seconds of the first half, had four catches on the day for 36 yards while Terry Godwin, Hollomon and Ridley snared two passes each, both of Ridley’s catches, of course, being touchdowns and Holloman having his one scoring catch.
With the Jackets’ run-oriented offense, the Bulldogs had plenty of opportunities to record tackles on the Tech backs. And that they did, notching 68 total stops in doing a superb job of not only taking away the Jackets’ B-backs on the dive play but also limiting Tech quarterback Marshall to minimal yards on the keeper as well as cutting off the outside to limit Jacket big gainers on the option pitch.
Senior end Jonathan Ledbetter fittingly put the cap on his outstanding career in Sanford Stadium by leading the way with nine total tackles including one tackle-for-loss. One can say the same for senior outside linebacker D’Andre Walker as he notched seven tackles including a sack and tackle-for-loss. Then came Malik Herring, freshman Adam Anderson and Tae Crowder, all credited with five tackles each. Crowder had half-a-sack and freshman nose tackle Jordan Davis also contributed a big fourth-down sack of Marshall on a day where on three different occasions, the Georgia defense stopped the Jackets cold on fourth-down attempts.
Now, at last, the Bulldogs can put all their concentration on avenging last year’s national championship overtime defeat to the Crimson Tide as they work toward Saturday’s 4 p.m. SEC title game kickoff at the same venue where Alabama broke Bulldawg Nation’s collective heart last Jan. 8. On Saturday, the Crimson Tide climbed to 12-0 by pulling away from just a 17-14 halftime lead on Auburn and toppling the Tigers, 52-21, with Tua Tagovailoa hurling five more touchdown passes.