EL PASO, Texas – It was a non-New Year’s Day bowl game between teams with disappointing seasons. But for Georgia Tech, it ended up being so much more than that.
Most significantly, the Yellow Jackets’ 21-7 win over USC on Monday brought an end to their seven-game bowl losing streak, the nation’s second-longest active streak. It gave coach Paul Johnson his first bowl win at Tech. It probably ranks as Tech’s second biggest non-conference win in Johnson’s tenure, following the 2008 victory over Georgia.
Given the weight lifted from Tech’s shoulders, said offensive tackle Will Jackson, “It feels like we just won the national championship.”
The highlights were many. Quarterback Tevin Washington, maligned as unable to deliver in the clutch, came through with a touchdown drive that raised Tech’s advantage to two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter and then led two more that produced no points but swallowed up eight minutes of the fourth quarter.
Said Washington, “It feels real good, because we’ve been preaching all bowl practice, just finish.”
Washington also entered the Tech record books with a third-quarter touchdown that made him the single-season leader for touchdowns (20), rushing touchdowns (20) and points scored (120), breaking Robert Lavette’s records in each category with 19, 19 and 114, respectively.
The team, which had given up fourth-quarter leads to lose to Virginia Tech and Miami in overtime, not to mention last year against Utah here, held firm.
Said defensive end Izaan Cross, “At halftime, we had a little talk. Can’t let up. We’ve been in this situation numerous times where it’s been one or two plays that’s messed up the game for us when we played so well but we didn’t come out with the victory.”
For cornerback Louis Young, who missed the Sun Bowl last year with an NCAA suspension and struggled through an injury-filled season, the game was rife with personal meaning.
“To come out here and get this win, words can’t explain it really,” he said.
The senior class, like Johnson, won its first bowl game after a run in which it won an ACC title and played for another, but hadn’t won in a bowl. After three bowl losses, Cross, a team captain, stood on an on-field stage to receive the Sun Bowl trophy.
Said Cross, “For me to experience that at the Sun Bowl, that was awesome.”
A season that has had plenty of bumps — a fired defensive coordinator, a fourth consecutive loss to Georgia, an embarrassing 21-point home loss to Middle Tennessee State, derision from fans and media for going to a bowl game with a losing record — ended with a trophy and a win over one of the biggest names in college football.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog