For the first time in a long while, Charlie Brown actually kicked the ball. That’s what the Georgia – Georgia Tech rivalry has felt like for the last seven years. No matter the convincing, the confidence, the hoping, Lucy would always pull the away, every year. Tech would lose in embarrassingly ugly ways (51-7 in 2002) and in close, stomach punching ways (14-7 in 2005 and 15-12 in 2006), but Tech would always lose and this year appeared to be no different. Tech was totally incapable of stopping Matthew Stafford’s passing, particularly to Mohamed Massaquoi. With UGA leading 21-12 with only 1:32 left in the half at their own 44, I figured they would go conservative and take a lead into halftime. However, Mark Richt went for the jugular and Georgia passed their way down the field and when Massaquoi caught the touchdown pass to make the score 28-12 I muttered, “that’s the ball game.”
But then came the third quarter. That Third Quarter in Athens that will be talked about for years to come. Examine, if you will, the third quarter of this game. On Tech’s first play, Jonathan Dwyer breaks loose for a 60 yard to score a touchdown and then he scores the two-point conversion. Georgia goes three and out. Tech moves the ball fifty yards down the field over the course of five minutes to score another touchdown. Georgia fumbles the kickoff ball and Tech recovers. Dwyer rushes 23 yards for a touchdown on the first play. Georgia is forced to punt after only five plays. Tech drives down the field to kick a field goal. Georgia stalled again as the quarter ends. The numbers for the third quarter are staggering. Tech moved the ball 215 yards in the quarter alone, some teams don’t get that in a whole game, compared to Georgia’s 37. Tech scored 26 unanswered points to take the lead 38-28.
Of course, this being Georgia, I knew they would find a way to come back. Even leading by 10 with only four minutes remaining, I had been conditioned to expect the worst. And when Georgia score, of course they did, it looked like the same old same old was about to happen again. But Tech never gave the ball back, eating up the remaining four minutes of the game. For the first time since 2000, the last time I watched the game with my dad, it should be noted, there wouldn’t be any taunts, any nerd jokes, any barking, just sweet victory.
It’s one thing to lose to your rival multiple years in row, but when it reaches seven, you start to wonder if your team will ever win again. To Paul Johnson’s credit, he totally changed the attitude of the team and it showed today. I don’t think a Chan Gailey team could have possibly recovered from a 28-12 score at halftime. Johnson went 9-3 and beat Georgia in a year where he inherited all of the players, most of them freshmen and sophomores, and played under scholarship restrictions. What’s he going to do when he gets all of his own players and has a full compliment of scholarships?
As for Georgia, they might win next year, but at least it won’t the anything-th in a row. It’s a rivalry again.