Saturday night’s Georgia-Georgia Tech game was memorable for me for more than just the unexpected result.
It was the first football game I’d attended at Grant Field since I was a teenager.
Generally, I’ve avoided the campus of the school that pretentiously likes to call itself “the Institute.” I’d been to a few concerts at the old stadium over the years and took the kids to a couple of Atlanta Beat games, but when it came to football I preferred not to mix with the folks in gold and white (and blue, the often forgotten Tech color). I can proudly say I’ve never given their athletic association a penny’s income.
But my son decided back in September to take me to this year’s Tech game as a birthday present. I have to admit that the way the season had transpired, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the game, but I figured it would be an interesting experience. Different, at least.
That was the case right from when we arrived at our gate. I’d never been patted down before entering a football game.
Once we made it up to our seats in the upper deck of the North end zone stands, mostly among folks in red and black, I marveled at two things: First, the view of the nighttime Atlanta skyline was pretty spectacular. And second, how could a school of engineers come up with such a poorly designed stadium? The thing looks like it was just pieced together, with no thought about easy access from one side to the other.
One plus about our location was that the Redcoat Band, located diagonally across from us in a corner of the other end zone stands, could be heard just fine all night, while the Tech band down below us, looking as silly as ever in those all-white uniforms, couldn’t be heard at all where we sat. My son noted before the game that there weren’t as many red shirts as two years ago, when it looked nearly 50-50, but there was still a good representation of UGA fans and we fortunately had plenty of occasion to make noise.
I liked that Tech showed the seniors on the big video screen, introducing themselves and telling their favorite memory from their time with the Jackets. (Predictably, more than half cited last year’s win in Athens, all reciting the score as if it were engraved on their rings or something.) But the silly poses struck by many members of the team in frequent video clips of them clowning around in sweats and urging the fans on seemed kind of cheesy. And the Tech band still has the dorkiest announcer I’ve ever heard.
I thought the folks running the game took a big chance after pregame warm-ups, letting the two teams come face to face at midfield, jumping up an down with only a thin line of coaches and officials between them. That easily could have gotten out of hand. There was a little shoving at the end of the game, but despite the hatred between the two programs, I also noticed throughout the night players helping opponents up off the ground and patting the helmet of someone on the other team after a play, which brought home the fact that many of the Bulldogs and Jackets grew up with each other and played together in high school.
So a Georgia-Georgia Tech game is sort of like a family squabble. OK, a pretty dysfunctional family.
And in the end, as my brother Tim noted when I called him after the game, Saturday night’s game turned out to be a pretty nice birthday present. One of the best I’ve ever received, in fact.
Some other random thoughts about Georgia’s win over Tech …
Georgia’s offensive line finally lived up to its preseason hype Saturday night. It was great to see the Dogs’ backs racking up yardage like in days of old, but it also made you sigh and wonder why it took so long this season to get the running game on track. And what the season could have been like had that aspect of Georgia’s game come together sooner. Or if the Dogs hadn’t had such a turnover problem all season. Take away the last-minute loss to LSU and the four second-half turnovers against Kentucky, and you’d have the pretty decent 9-3 season that so many folks predicted. …
It’s a good thing the Dogs got off to such a fast start against the Jackets, as the offense sputtered somewhat in the second half, having to resort to kicking field goals too many times thanks to uninspired play-calling in the red zone. And the poor tackling that killed Georgia last season occasionally reared its ugly head on Tech’s successful scoring drives. Vance Cuff particularly had a hard time subbing for the injured Brandon Boykin in that regard. But as I said last night, the middle of the defensive line was magnificent. And that one-handed pick by Reshad Jones was spectacular.
An entire quarter of Mark Richt football without a pass? Who’da thunk it?
Georgia’s special teams play continued to be spotty, particularly on kick coverage, and Blair Walsh had an up and down night, getting three touchbacks but also kicking one out of bounds. I felt sorry for him that he wasn’t able to ice the game with that 55-yard field goal attempt, but the three that he made provided the margin of victory, so he definitely should join Washaun Ealey and Caleb King on the list of the evening’s Bulldog heroes.
The running game, the most productive of the Mark Richt era, was the story of the night, but Joe Cox nearly had a beautiful long touchdown pass to Rantavious Wooten. The ball was perfectly placed; it just wasn’t caught, one of a couple of drops the Dogs had in the game.
All in all, it was the most satisfying win of the season, and not just because it was over the Jackets. Let’s hope that Richt and Mike Bobo aren’t just single-game converts to the running game. It’s still the best way to dominate in college football.
And when you can run the ball better than the No. 2 rushing attack in the country, what could be sweeter than that?
Well, how about this: Tech and Clemson are meeting for the ACC title. Clemson lost Saturday to South Carolina. Tech lost to Georgia. And Georgia beat South Carolina. As the Dogs’ Michael Moore facetiously asked in a postgame Tweet, doesn’t that make Georgia the real ACC champion?