The Georgia Bulldogs had an unforgettable matchup with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, and although it may not compare to the Iron Bowl’s “Missed Field Goal Return Heard ‘Round the World”, it was certainly one that Bulldogs’ fans will remember for quite some time, as the Bulldogs overcame a 20-0 deficit in the second quarter to ultimately defeat the Yellow Jackets 41-34 in double overtime.
The situation was dismal for the Dawgs in the first two quarters of this contest due to Georgia Tech’s dangerous offense, but it was not due to the triple-option’s potency; instead, it was Vad Lee’s impressive passing ability that caught Georgia off guard time and time again. Lee did his best Jameis Winston impression against the Bulldogs’ secondary in the opening half of play, completing 5 passes–the longest being a 68 yarder to Darren Waller–for 171 yards and one touchdown, an eye-opening development considering the fact Georgia Tech averages 129 yards through the air per game.
Combine Lee’s great outing with a Georgia offense that could not establish the running game early and the result was not pretty, leaving the Bulldogs in a 20-0 hole with 6:33 left in the second quarter. Fortunately, the wheels started turning for Georgia in the waning minutes before halftime thanks to a seven play, eighty-six yard drive that saw Georgia backup-turned-starter Hutson Mason complete five passes to three different receivers and ultimately score on a nine yard pass to Todd Gurley, whose dive in the corner of the end zone was just the beginning of the sophomore’s tremendous day against the Yellow Jackets.
This game would be proven to be a tale of two halves, as the successes had by Georgia Tech in the first half would be nearly non-existent in the final two quarters of regulation, while Georgia’s troubles against the stingy Jackets’ defense would be extremely minimized. Gurley’s touchdown before the half was soon followed by a forty-yard field goal by Marshall Morgan then a 9-yard touchdown pass from Mason to Michael Bennett, leaving Georgia down 20-17 with 2:26 left in the third quarter. Tech and Georgia would then trade touchdowns in the fourth quarter, putting Georgia in an uncomfortable 27-24 hole with 6:37 left on the clock.
The drive following this last touchdown–a two yard run by Todd Gurley–would prove to be the most important of the game for both sides. Still up by three points with a little over six minutes to work with, it looked as if Georgia Tech would utilize the triple-option, milk the clock, and burn the Bulldogs on the ground. However, Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson decided instead to try and slash Georgia’s secondary through the air, an understandable strategy that would soon sting Georgia Tech. On the second play of this drive Lee attempted to connect with a receiver on the sideline but instead found Josh Harvey-Clemons, who intercepted the pass and returned it to the Yellow Jackets’ 25-yard line. Although the Georgia Tech defense would hold the Dawgs to just three points, it would be enough to tie the game 27-27, which led to overtime.
The first overtime session saw Georgia Tech start with possession and pull out all of the works with their offense, making the most of a clever reverse and a handful of hard-fought runs by Vad Lee to take a 34-27 lead. Now in a do-or-die situation, the Bulldogs relied heavily on Gurley through the running game, giving the running back three straight carries that led to 25 yards for Georgia and a 34-34 deadlock thanks to a 6-yard scamper on first and goal.
Georgia remained on the field following this touchdown for the second session of OT but would not stay long, as Mason would handoff to Gurley, who then proceeded to take off for a twenty-five touchdown that gave the Bulldogs a 41-34 lead, the team’s first of the entire game. With their hands forced to score seven points, Georgia Tech threatened but were severely hampered by a three yard loss on third and goal thanks to a heads-up play by the Bulldogs’ defense. On fourth and goal Lee threw a desperation pass into the end zone, which would be bounced around before ultimately falling harmlessly to the turf, giving the Bulldogs an outstanding 41-34 victory.
The victory for the Bulldogs had to sting even more for the Jackets, considering that Georgia Tech controlled the game for the better part of thirty minutes before losing the momentum to the road squad. Georgia’s win in the 2013 matchup of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate gave the Bulldogs its fifth in a row in the series and twelfth in its last thirteen games against the Yellow Jackets, a statistic that Paul Johnson surely does not like to see (recall that Chan Gailey was fired after going 0-6 against Georgia).
All eyes were on quarterback Hutson Mason coming into this contest, and although he struggled a bit early, he rebounded to have a very nice game for Georgia, completing 22 passes for 299 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mason’s composure in the second half was incredibly impressive, as the junior stayed poised in the pocket and found his open receivers time and time again. Mason’s play was complemented by the play of Todd Gurley, whose 20 rushes for 122 yards and 3 touchdowns left Dawgs fans wondering what might have been had the back not missed three games due to injury.
Georgia’s victory on Saturday marked the end of the regular season, leaving the Bulldogs’ record at 7-5 overall and 5-3 in SEC play. The next game for the Bulldogs is undetermined at this point and will remain that way until Sunday, December 7th when the official bowl game schedule is announced. Fans and writers alike are anxious to predict where Georgia lands for the bowl game, and at this point the majority says the Bulldogs will be playing a Big Ten opponent in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl on January 1st, which will be televised at noon on ESPN2.