On the morning of Nov. 28, 2009, Paul Johnson was poised to become the unchallenged king of football in a state that takes the sport seriously. He was 19-5 in two seasons as Georgia Tech’s coach. That night his Jackets would play Georgia, whom they’d famously beaten 45-42 in Athens the year before.
Tech was 10-1, ranked No. 7 nationally and champion of the ACC Coastal Division. Georgia was 6-5, having just lost at home to Kentucky. Not since George O’Leary was working against Jim Donnan had Tech beaten the Bulldogs twice in a row – Chan Gailey, O’Leary’s successor, hadn’t done it even once – and now Johnson was roundly favored to make it 2-for-2 against the hated Mutts.
But Georgia won. The Bulldogs pounded the Jackets on the ground, and Tech’s final chance was wasted when Demaryius Thomas dropped a fourth-down pass. For Tech and for Johnson, nothing since has been nearly as good.