In his 15 years at the Georgia football helm, Mark Richt’s only losses to state rival Georgia Tech came at the Bulldogs’ Sanford Stadium … in 2008 and 2014.
Now, in his first shot at the Yellow Jackets, Kirby Smart has also been dealt a bitter defeat by Tech between the hallowed hedges. As all in Bulldawg Nation are now painfully aware, the Jackets erased a 27-14 fourth-quarter deficit this past Saturday and stung the Bulldogs 28-27, the game-tying touchdown by Qua Searcy and Harrison Butker’s winning PAT kick coming with just 30 seconds left to play.
After a 7-5 regular-season finish –a won-loss mark surely nobody had expected in Smart’s first year in Athens – the Bulldogs now await their bowl destination
It’s certain Georgia fans everywhere don’t want to keep thinking about this grueling loss to “The Enemy” on Nov. 26, 2016. That said, let’s get straight to the STATS THAT MATTER, which will readily reflect why the Bulldogs let this one get away in the final quarter Saturday.
Plays of 20 plus yards, offense and defense
The Bulldogs got a 35-yard pass from Jacob Eason to Isaac Nauta on their first scoring drive and then a 42-yard run from Sony Michel on their second scoring march in the second period. In the second half, Michel reeled off a 29-yard run while Eason and Terry Godwin hooked up on a 37-yard pass completion. Tech’s big plays in the first half were Searcy’s 32-yard run, Clinton Lynch’s 42-yard scoring dash for the Jackets’ first touchdown and then a 64-yard pass from Justin Thomas to Brad Stewart that set up Tech’s second score. Then Thomas and Stewart teamed for a key 23-yard completion in the final quarter and Thomas came back on the same 94-yard drive, the one that pulled Tech within 27-21, and passed 39 yards to a wide-open Searcy.
Untimely Mistakes (turnovers, penalties, clock management miscues, etc)
Isaiah Wynn was slapped for a holding call that negated the Bulldogs’ second touchdown, a 2-yard run by Nick Chubb, but Georgia came right back after the penalty to even the score at 14-all on a 6-yard pass from Eason to Isaiah McKenzie. Javon Wims had a false start penalty for the Bulldogs but again Georgia played a relatively clean game with just the two penalties for 15 yards. But the deadly turnover for the Bulldogs came when Eason’s deflected pass was intercepted in the waning minutes by Tech cornerback Lance Austin at the Georgia 46. That led to the Jackets’ tying touchdown and game-winning extra point kick.
Special teams wins vs. miscues
The wins on special teams were William Ham putting most of his kickoffs into the end zone and Brice Ramsey averaging 41 yards on two punts, including one kick backing Tech up at its own 6-yard line (as mentioned, the Bulldogs couldn’t keep them there). Rodrigo Blankenship made field goals of 27 and 32 yards but missed on his first try from 42 yards after the Bulldogs went down to the Tech 25 on their opening possession. Georgia’s kick coverage was again outstanding in this game.
The Bulldogs had a good afternoon – for the most part – in gang-tackling Georgia Tech’s A and B running backs. But again, the Georgia defense allowed Tech to hit on too many big gainers down the field … especially in the deep passing game.
Yards after contact
You look at Sony Michel’s rushing totals on the day and you know he had a truly outstanding game making the first Jacket defenders miss. He also carried Tech would-be tacklers along for extra yards. The result: A career-high 170 yards on 19 carries for Michel, an 8.9 average-per-carry. He also scored the Bulldogs’ first touchdown on a 10-yard run. And although he was held to 88 yards on 22 carries by the Tech defense, Nick Chubb moved past former UGA tailback Garrison Hearst on the all-time career rushing list. With 3,282 yards Chubb (and has he played his final game at Sanford Stadium?) now trails second-place Todd Gurley by just three yards.
Dominique Sanders picked off a deep Thomas pass near the end of the first half, the 12th career interception for Sanders. He also recovered a Jacket fumble, which was caused by Roquan Smith. But the dagger for the Bulldogs in this department was of course the late interception thrown by Eason.
Red Zone (offense/defense)
Well, both teams were perfect in this area. Of course, for Georgia, all the scores weren’t touchdowns but the Bulldogs did convert all five red zone chances into points. And Tech was three-for-three scoring, all touchdowns, when going inside the Georgia 20.
Third down conversions
The Bulldogs were a little better than .500 on their third-down conversions, converting 8 of 15 chances while Tech was only 3-of-8 but the Jackets’ long plays more than offset their failures here.
Run/pass attempts (total plays)
Georgia had a total of 70 plays compared to Tech’s 52 plays. The Bulldogs rushed 42 times for 263 yards and passed 28 times with 14 completions for 139 yards. The Yellow Jackets also ran 42 times for 226 yards but were successful on six of 10 pass attempts for 164 yards. Georgia easily won time of possession, keeping the football 34:33 minutes to the Jackets’ 25:27. But again, the big touchdown plays by Tech and the lack of same by the Bulldogs’ offense…