Outmanned Tech fights to the end but can’t finish the drill

One guy coached a winning game. The other coach won. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

One guy coached a winning game. The other coach won. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Athens – Give Paul Johnson a couple of months and he could take the remaining Rolling Stones and have those geezers rushing for 300 yards a game. Say what you will about the man, but he can coach the heck out of what he has. At issue Saturday night was whether he had enough.

There aren’t many coaches who can outdraw Johnson with the X’s and O’s, but the game, as we’re constantly reminded, isn’t played on a whiteboard. It’s played by real-life players. And Johnson’s Jackets lost to Georgia here Saturday not because they didn’t play hard or well but because in the end they just weren’t as skilled. Try as they might, and they tried mightily, they could never take the lead.

If anything, Saturday’s game showed us how clever Johnson is. He bled 512 yards out of an offense missing its best player. Tech held the ball for 38 minutes and 14 seconds, ran 92 plays to Georgia’s 48. And even at the end, when the Bulldogs appeared to have scored the clinching touchdown, they looked up and realized the old fox on the far sideline had one-upped them again.

As Johnson said, allowing Georgia to score was “the only way we could win the game.” And rather than alert its players to the possibility and advise them to get a first down and then fall on the ball, the Bulldog staff was caught unawares.

“We didn’t coach very good there,” Mark Richt said, speaking of Washaun Ealey’s 20-yard touchdown run with 1:29 remaining that put Georgia up eight points. “We got outcoached right there. It was good strategy by Coach Johnson. I thought when it happened, ‘He got us there. He got me.’ ”

It was that kind of night. Georgia won the game but left the distinct impression that it had gotten away with one. Johnson’s Jackets messed up early and often and still were one drive from winning the thing. (And then, one possession later, one drive from forcing overtime.)

Tech fizzled twice early — getting stopped on fourth-and-2 at the Georgia 19 after recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff, fumbling inside the 10 not five minutes later. And here came the Bulldogs, seizing a 14-point lead that at the game’s outset seemed like twice that much. But back came Tech, back on the strength of those two Johnson staples: A  running game and a sheer stubbornness.

Even the hardiest of Jacket backers were dreading this strange game, in which the team with the lesser record entered favored by two touchdowns. Georgia clearly has better players than Tech, and without quarterback Joshua Nesbitt there are moments when it seems Tech has nothing at all. And yet the visitors kept fighting after falling behind by those two touchdowns, and soon it was apparent that the team lacking its best player wasn’t lacking in guts.

It was 14-all with one minute left in the first half, 21-all with a minute left in the third quarter. And this wasn’t because Tech was playing letter-perfect football; on the contrary, it had taken three Georgia turnovers and gotten nothing from them. And still the game was tied, the underdog having become the aggressor, the Bulldogs looking as confused as they had all season. (Which, given how the season had gone for Georgia, was saying something.)

Late in the third quarter Tech was driving to take the lead when Roddy Jones fumbled. Georgia nosed ahead on Washaun Ealey’s touchdown burst on fourth-and-goal. Then Tech fumbled again, quarterback Tevin Washington pitching to Jones as the Tech back was about to get splattered, and the resulting loose ball was taken for a touchdown by Georgia linebacker Justin Houston.

Another two-TD lead for the home side, this with barely a quarter to go. Surely there was no responding from this, not with the redoubtable Nesbitt a spectator with his broken arm. But doggone — no pun intended — if the Jackets didn’t surge to one touchdown and then, beggaring belief, another. With 4:56 remaining, the Jackets were within a point of even.

And Scott Blair, who hadn’t missed an extra point all season, missed the extra point. And surely that was that. But no. Georgia didn’t lose six times by its ability to deliver under pressure. The Bulldogs moved within field-goal range, chose to go for it on fourth-and-1 and saw Aaron Murray fumble the snap. At last Tech had its chance to take the lead.

And it couldn’t manage a first down. Tevin Washington was dropped for losses on first and second down, threw incomplete on third and fourth, and the Jackets had to be done, didn’t they? But Johnson pulled his let-’em-score trick and still his Jackets kept coming, flying across midfield with 45 seconds left. And then finally it was done, Washington delivering an interception.

Georgia had won and rendered itself bowl-eligible, but the lasting memory of this game won’t be of the Bulldogs and their escape: It will be of Johnson and his Jackets and how close they’d come with all their fumbling and without their No. 1 quarterback. It will be of the coach with the lesser players forcing the Bulldogs to the brink. If Paul Johnson can ever recruit similar talent on a consistent basis — admittedly, it’s a big if — Tech won’t wind up 6-6 again anytime soon.

“I wish I could have found a way to help them win the game,” Johnson said, speaking of his players, but he’d done all any coach could do. He’d put them in position. His undermanned team just couldn’t finish the drill.

859 comments Add your comment

Rwreck77

November 27th, 2010
11:39 pm

Good game Mutts sloppy as it was on both sides. But one thing you can’t say, it was an **s whuppin,,,more like a good ole street fight. Have fun all year with the cuts and jabs,,,,Enjoyed following the game on line with everyone.

Burdell

November 27th, 2010
11:39 pm

Todd Grantham….about 40 days before he heads back to being an NFL DL coach….

Otis My Man

November 27th, 2010
11:39 pm

GT just doesn’t know how to win with humility. UGA wins and doesnt get stupid afterwards–maybe because we are suppossed to win???

Bryan G.

November 27th, 2010
11:39 pm

Hats off to tech. We got outcoached. I feel bad for Blair. I take little joy from this win considering how awful our team is.

BradleyisaBulldogHomer

November 27th, 2010
11:39 pm

When is Georgia’s defense going to show up? The season is over. No bowl should be calling the red necks from Athens. Too many players have to check in with the Athens Parole team on a daily basis.

Jacket1985

November 27th, 2010
11:40 pm

What? The great “we run this state” UGA can only muster an 8 point win after we spot you a +7? You idiots. Memphis or Shreveport it’s all the same. Both teams suck. Tech fans thought we’d lose by at least 3 touchdowns. Win or lose, the dawgies make us look better than we are.

Burgess

November 27th, 2010
11:40 pm

I wish just once, Johnson will take some responsibility for this debacle. Nick Saban and Mack Brown have done so in recent days.

82Dawg

November 27th, 2010
11:40 pm

Bottom line is UGA won…………

TechRedNeck

November 27th, 2010
11:40 pm

O.K. dog fans you eked out a victory over a weak Tech team without its best player (Nesbitt). Go ahead as Mark said and as I have admitted UGA has better talent and plays in a tougher conference. But even with all the miscues Tech had they still played a hell of a game. And you know it. With all the great recruits UGA gets they still can’t compete in the SEC. Brag and rub it in all you want, but you’re still a mediocre program. Lick your junk, bark at the moon, and crap on your campus.

Burdell

November 27th, 2010
11:40 pm

Todd Grantham…the laughing stock of Lake Oconee…

Tech Man

November 27th, 2010
11:40 pm

Tech beat themselves, not uga!! You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that!!!!!!!

Big Brain

November 27th, 2010
11:40 pm

Burgess, UGa fans will throw their coach under the bus.

Asheville Dawg

November 27th, 2010
11:40 pm

Dawgs pick up big win, extends A.J. Green ’s career for one more month.

Dawgs sure did need this win.

Matt the Brave

November 27th, 2010
11:40 pm

CPJ, feel free to hit me in the face tomorrow. 9 out of 10!

Jimbo

November 27th, 2010
11:41 pm

Hey, guys you barely made it to a bowl. Don’t get cocky. You could have lost to Tech tonight except for a couple of breaks. They run your butts off the field tonight. As always the breaks go to the mutts.

Burgess

November 27th, 2010
11:41 pm

I’ve seen 4th and 5th graders that can pass a football better than Tech.

BradleyisaBulldogHomer

November 27th, 2010
11:42 pm

Otis My Man, UGA gets stupid before, during, and after the game. Your Thuga team probably won’t be able to field a team if any bowl is dumb enough to invite you losers. Too many of your players have a daily meeting with the Athens Police Department/Department of Corrections.

Drew

November 27th, 2010
11:42 pm

Georgia’s defense is awful!

Tech Fan Since 1950

November 27th, 2010
11:42 pm

I’m proud of my Yellow Jackets. They ran all over this state tonight with a “high school offense” with guys ranked 1,2, or 3 vs the top 4 & 5’s of Georgia. We got beat. Congratulations Georgia! When we get a “high school defense” watch out. Really though, the guys on defense played their hearts out too. My hat is off to them too. See you in Atlanta next year.

todd grantham

November 27th, 2010
11:42 pm

Mark, is it true that UGA can’t go to an out of state bowl game due legal reasons?

Wow...

November 27th, 2010
11:42 pm

Much better game than I thought. Once Groh gets the defense settled, this team will be dangerous. To all the classy Arfies out there, you just gave up 500 yards+ at home to the worst Tech team in 15 years. Happy days! Hopefully we will both be better next year. See you in 52 weeks.

THWG

Paul in RDU

November 27th, 2010
11:42 pm

Asheville Dawg – I think you meant to say “extend’s A.J. Green’s amateur career for one more month”.
I’m prety sure he’ll play a few more ball games.

Otis My Man

November 27th, 2010
11:43 pm

Jacket get a grip we are the best 6-6 team in this state if not the country!

Burgess

November 27th, 2010
11:43 pm

Do you guess that Tech may spend 10 minutes a week working on the passing game ?

BradleyisaBulldogHomer

November 27th, 2010
11:43 pm

A Win against a 6-5 team is a big win? Ashevill Dawg you need to quit drinking the Bulldog Koolaid.

todd grantham

November 27th, 2010
11:43 pm

Burdell, i own there. i see where you rent.

CC

November 27th, 2010
11:43 pm

9 out of 10, and the last two years to a bad Georgia team. Who will CPJ punch in the face this year?? Maybe his kicker. This one hurts, nerds, I know it does. Live with it!!!

Jimbo

November 27th, 2010
11:43 pm

Hey Mark, did I hurt your feelings. Why are you blocking my comments?

Michael

November 27th, 2010
11:43 pm

Good win. Hard fought, rivalry game. I’m feeling good about UGA’s future with Aaron Murray, and MARK RICHT! And the defense will come around. The D made big plays when they had to…and that’s a damn good offense at Tech.

But, what in the world were we thinking with scoring at the end there?? Terrible neglect from Richt. He better have a damn good explanation for that one…

Bamajacket

November 27th, 2010
11:43 pm

Old School, these are just juvenile dumb****s who never played any competitive sport, and have no class. An embarrassment to GA. The game, sadly, went as I feared. We gave them too many chances. We played hard. So did GA. Their team does not deserve these pathetic children who blog that slop. Congrats Dawgs. We’ll be back. A great game.

GraftonMA Dawg

November 27th, 2010
11:44 pm

I am relieved that the DAWGS won,but Todd Grantham is pathetic as DC and should be Relieved immediately!

Hey St. Simons

November 27th, 2010
11:44 pm

((((42-34))))

same stuff different year

November 27th, 2010
11:44 pm

Well, I dont think Johnson fumbled on the UGA 7 or the UGA 17 or miss an extra point, I dont agree with some of the things that Johnson does, but damn, the players have got to stop screwing up the most basic plays. His job is to put them in the best position to be successful, the players have to finish the play……yeah, Georgia, celebrate this one and go watch Spurrier in the SEC Championship, that is something you guys out to be used to be now…..

Tech Man

November 27th, 2010
11:44 pm

I thought uga was going to win big time,but tech came out with a chip on there shoulder and could have easly won!!

Dr. J

November 27th, 2010
11:44 pm

Another great coaching job by Paul Johnson. Enjoy your loss. Goodnight.

Statesborodawg13

November 27th, 2010
11:44 pm

Can silly me ask a question? Why on ajc.com does the reporter twitter every single play of the game, when most of the population with indoor plumbing gets ESPN? I mean, who exactly is the target market for these tweets?

todd grantham

November 27th, 2010
11:44 pm

the game you have just seen is true. the names were changed to save a lot of embarrasement.

Herschel Talker

November 27th, 2010
11:44 pm

MB:

Richt scoring a TD, thereby giving Tech a chance to score and tie the game, instead of taking a knee was disgraceful. A pathetic coaching decision if there ever was one. Richt should be fired on the spot. Don’t even try to continue to defend this moron.

HT

Burgess

November 27th, 2010
11:44 pm

Come on Paul , for once in your life…..take some responsibility for your team’s loss. Don’t throw a bunch of KIDS under the bus.

tech sucks

November 27th, 2010
11:45 pm

all u nerd tech fans are talkin about is how good ur coach is and how he has a brighter than coach richt.Next year uga will be scary good with allmost all of our deffense comin back and think how unreal ealey and murray will be in years to come. and i cant wait to be boise next year in the dome and show them how sec football played. and OLD SCHOOL i am 12 and i know more about football than u ever will yall tech fans just try to make up excusses for your loosing effort thats why georgia fans have class and take a loss like it should be takin but we dont half to do that tonite

GT23

November 27th, 2010
11:45 pm

I can “BLAIRLY” believe what I have just seen! We had a chance to win with a backup QB and missed a dang PAT! Nice game UGA! You made one less mistake than we did! This game just showed us just how far both of our programs have taken a step back.
UGA – GET A DEFENSE! OFFENSE IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM!
GT – DEVELOP A PASSING COMPLEMENT TO THE SPREAD OPTION!

GT79

November 27th, 2010
11:45 pm

With a game like this – there is no room for trash talk on either side. Good game and a great effort by both teams.. Yes, Georgia’s defense was steamrolled a lot, but they made some big plays when they had too….just as Ga Tech’s defense did in the 4th quarter a couple of times. Both teams have major issues on defense and pretty bright futures with their offense….Ga Tech has got to fix their defense and special teams if they want to be national championship contenders…same for Georgia. Go Jackets!!

BradleyisaBulldogHomer

November 27th, 2010
11:45 pm

Otis My Man, that dominating win over mighty Idaho State is Thuga’s signature win of the season. Tech Sucks. Tucker High School could beat the team from Athens and the team from North Avenue on consecutive weeks with their starting qb out.

DawgDays

November 27th, 2010
11:45 pm

Any of us who say we run the state are obviously delusional. We’re fortunate we won. Tech’s got a great coach.

todd grantham

November 27th, 2010
11:46 pm

What did i say folks? the team with the next to the last screw up will win. tech screwed up last. and lost.

The Other Teams In The SEC

November 27th, 2010
11:46 pm

Congrats on getting a bowl bid UGA.

Dan

November 27th, 2010
11:46 pm

Worst Georgia team in… well it’s been a while and the Nats still can’t win.

The Other Teams In The SEC

November 27th, 2010
11:46 pm

Enter your comments here

Jake

November 27th, 2010
11:46 pm

That game was a stinker. UGA defense practiced against the triple option in the spring and summer, and for two weeks before tonight? Really? So what exactly is Grantham doing to collect his $750K a year?

WE STILL OWN TECH

November 27th, 2010
11:46 pm

SAY WHAT YOU WILL RICHT HATTERS SCOREING 31 PLUSE POINTS A GAME WILL WIN YOU MORE THAN YOU LOSE. GO DAWGS! WE OWN YOU TECH. WE WILL BE BETTER NEXT YEAR. F U TECH FANS WE WILL ALWAYS RUN THIS STATE!