A friend posed a tough question this week when he asked me to pick my all-time favorite Georgia win over Georgia Tech.
I had to give that some serious thought. For one thing, there’ve been so many! And asking a Bulldogs fan to single out just one victory over the Trade School is almost as unfair as asking a parent to pick a favorite among their children.
They’re all favorites.
Still, there are some that are more unforgettable than others. Last year, I listed my top 10 favorite wins over Georgia Tech. But, yes, I can narrow it down a bit more than that.
Like many UGA fans, I’ll never lose the warm glow that comes from remembering the 2002 game when Mark Richt’s eventual SEC champions completely demolished the Jackets 51-7 in Athens. And then there’s the great come-from-behind victory in 1978 when freshman Buck Belue came into the game with the Jackets leading 20-0 and engineered one of the most exciting comebacks in Georgia football history for a 29-28 win. Another exciting finish was in 1997, when Tech took a 24-21 lead late and started celebrating, only to have Mike Bobo bring the Dawgs downfield in a hurry, completing four passes in 40 seconds, the last a dagger in Tech’s heart to Corey Allen.
Still, if I have to single out one Georgia victory over Tech, it’s the game from my sophomore year at UGA.
It was Nov. 25, 1971, Thanksgiving night, and the game was being televised nationally back when that was a rarity. The Jackets had jumped out to a 14-0 lead and were ahead 17-14 at halftime. Led by Andy Johnson, a classmate of mine all through junior high and high school in Athens, the Dogs battled back in the second half to take a 21-17 lead, only to see Tech regain the upper hand, 24-21.
Finally, Georgia got the ball at its own 30 with 1:29 on the clock, and in one of the most memorable drives I’ve ever seen Andy led them downfield. Although known primarily as a running quarterback, it was the four passes he completed on that drive that made the difference, especially a clutch fourth-down throw to Mike Greene that gave the Dogs a first down at the Tech 25 with 48 seconds remaining. After another pass to Jimmy Shirer got the Dogs down to the 1, Jimmy Poulos went over the top to score with only 14 seconds left on the clock. Georgia won 28-24.
They don’t come any sweeter.
There’s no telling whether the 2012 Georgia-Georgia Tech game will be able to match that one for excitement, but it’s certain that only a handful of times in the past have the Bulldogs come into the annual grudge match with more on the line. Alabama, the SEC Championship game and a possible shot at a BCS national championship await.
The Jackets have had a disappointing season, reaching their nadir with a loss to Middle Tennessee, and yet thanks to Miami sitting out postseason play they’re also headed for their conference championship game.
It’ll be the second consecutive week that the Dogs have faced a triple-option offense and its attendant cut blocks, which ought to work in Georgia’s favor. Still, Tech has one of the nation’s most productive running games and the Jackets’ attack is more explosive than Georgia Southern’s because they’re much more likely to throw the ball when the defense least expects it.
Whether it’s Tevin Washington at quarterback or Vad Lee calling the signals, the Jackets are going to rack up some yardage; the challenge for Todd Grantham’s defense is making sure that those yards come mostly between the 20s, and that they don’t give up too many big plays.
This will be Grantham’s third go-round against Paul Johnson, however, so he knows what he needs to do. And perhaps having slogged through the first half last week against Southern before figuring out they needed to be more aggressive and get into the backfield to disrupt those option plays, the Georgia defenders will be able to get off to a faster start this week.
On the other side of the ball, Tech doesn’t have one of the stronger defenses the Dogs will have faced this season. Last year in Atlanta, Georgia was playing without its two top running backs and was nearly as one-dimensional offensively as Tech, and yet the Dogs still moved the ball easily against the Jackets most of the day, with Aaron Murray throwing for four touchdowns.
This year, with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, Georgia has a much more balanced attack. If Tech decides to sell out against the run, like Georgia Southern did, Murray and the Georgia passing attack are likely to have a big day.
Yes, there’s always the danger that Georgia will be caught looking ahead to the SEC Championship and beyond.
But that was the theme of last year’s widespread media predictions that Tech would upset the Dogs, and it didn’t happen. And I don’t believe such a letdown is any more likely this year.
After all, this is Tech we’re talking about. They don’t call it Hate Week for nothing.
Here’s hoping everyone has a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday. See you in Athens on Saturday. The Dawg Walk is set for 10 a.m. and the Senior Day ceremony will be at 11:46 a.m. So be there early and be loud!
Go Dawgs! Beat Tech!
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg