After one of the wilder games in the history of the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry, the Georgia Bulldogs stole a 41-34 victory that seemed wildly unlikely at points in the game, and they needed 2 overtimes to do it.
The game opened with a flurry of offense for the home team, as Georgia Tech sprinted to a seemingly insurmountable lead in the first 20+ minutes. On their opening drive, Vad Lee connected with Darren Waller on a 68-yard pitch and catch, and while that didn’t put them into the end zone, Lee dove in from 3 yards away to grab an early, 7-0 lead. From there, the Tech defense stymied first-time starter Hutson Mason on several possessions, including an inexcusable interception that led to a DeAndre Smelter touchdown catch that pushed the lead to 17-0.
With UGA showing signs of life offensively (there will be more of this), Tech rattled off a devastating drive to extend the lead to 20-0 midway through the 2nd quarter. Lee captained a 15-play, 87-yard drive that took more than 8 minutes of clock time, and only a goal-line stand kept the Bulldogs from falling behind by more than 3 touchdowns. However, it was that stand (which doubled as the first time all season that the Jackets failed to score a touchdown in a “goal-to-go” situation) that apparently revved up the Georgia defense.
Before the end of the half, Hutson Mason led a touchdown drive of 86 yards with impressive flare. Mason used the 2-minute, uptempo offense to go 5-for-5 for 71 yards through the air, and added a 16-yard 1st-down scamper to keep the march going. In fact, his total of 87 yards on the drive actually exceeded the 86-yard march (JJ Green had a negative carry), and it was Mason’s coming-out party on the day.
Coming out of halftime, Georgia appeared to strike in a big way, as Todd Gurley scampered into the end zone with what appeared to be a touchdown. However, the UGA workhorse had the play called back, and the Bulldogs were forced to settle for a 40-yard field goal from Marshall Morgan to cut the lead to 10. From there, Tech answered with a nice drive that stalled as a result of a missed field goal, and Hutson Mason brought the Bulldogs almost all the way back with 74-yard drive that ended in a Michael Bennett touchdown catch.
Georgia Tech wasn’t going away, however, as the Jackets answered the 17 unanswered points by UGA with a dominant drive of their own. DeAndre Smelter caught his 2nd touchdown of the day, putting an exclamation point on a 14-play, 75-yard drive, and giving the Jackets a bit of a cushion at 27-17. However, Mark Richt and company weren’t ready to fold their tents.
After seemingly stalling on their ensuing, Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo elected (very quickly, I might add) to go for it on the 4th-and-6…. on their own 39-yard line. Fortunately for Richt, the decision worked, and Hutson Mason found Michael Bennett for an 11-yard completion that kept the drive going. From there, the Bulldogs marched the length of the field for a 77-yard touchdown drive, and when they turned a Vad Lee interception (which was a horrible decision) into a quick Marshall Morgan field goal, it was a new ballgame at 27-27.
As you can tell by the final score, this one went into “free football” territory, as the teams proceeded into overtime. The first frame resulted in the two teams trading touchdowns, as Vad Lee and Todd Gurley strapped their respective teams on their backs with big-time efforts on the ground. However, Gurley’s next play was the big story, as he took the first snap of the 2nd overtime to the house for a 25-yard touchdown (his 4th on the day), and put the pressure back on the Jackets.
Tech quickly advanced the ball to the 3-yard line after a Robert Godhigh run to the outside, but his ensuing run lost 3 yards, setting up a 4th-and-goal for the Jackets at the 6-yard line. Vad Lee’s pass to the endzone was batted around multiple times, but in the end, it fell to the ground, and the Bulldogs escaped with an absolute heist of a victory in Atlanta.
The player of the game for the Bulldogs was, unquestionably, sophomore running back Todd Gurley, who strapped the team to his back during the latter part of the day. In total, Gurley rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries, but he also added 36 yards through the air, and more importantly, produced four of UGA’s five touchdowns. It was a slow start for Gurley, as he even looked hobbled at a couple points during the day, but his dominance in the 4th quarter and overtime lifted the Bulldogs.
As for Hutson Mason, he was very impressive in his starting debut. A slow start didn’t derail him, and Mason finished with 299 yards and 2 touchdowns (with just 1 interception) through the air. Mason was able to showcase his big-time arm, and once he settled in (especially at a quicker tempo), he likely reassured many Georgia fans who were worried about the future.
On the Tech side, this is (obviously) a brutal defeat. Losing a 20-point lead in your home building is never acceptable, and that’s certainly the case here, despite several positives to take away. Vad Lee played one of his best games of the year (his best, in my view) by passing for 232 yards and combining for 4 touchdowns with his legs and arm. Unfortunately, Lee threw 2 back-breaking interceptions that ended up being highly detrimental, but I’m 100% positive that any Tech supporter would have accepted these numbers if given the option pre-game.
Defensively, the Jackets were very good early, but the wheels came off as Mason got comfortable and Gurley got going. Jeremiah Attaochu, playing in his last home game, was dominant at times off the edge, and he finished with 4 sacks on the day. However, his counterparts weren’t so effective, and the highly-ranked defense allowed 40+ points with the obvious caveat of two extra overtime periods.
Every year, the winner of this match-up celebrates in the streets, and the loser sulks through the ensuing days and weeks. That will certainly be the case in both Athens and Atlanta after this one, but for me, it will be known as one of the most entertaining games in the history of this rivalry. Both teams will be Bowl-bound, so this won’t be the last we see of them as a collective, but the after-effects of this win/loss will be felt for a long, long time.