The ACC Championship Game-bound Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets brought their potent triple-option attack to Sanford Stadium on Saturday, and the Engineers proceeded to dominate the Georgia Bulldogs in time of possession (39:56-20:04), first downs (26-18), and total offense (426-379). The Red and Black had more penalties (5-4) and more penalty yards (55-30), converted just two of seven third-down attempts, and surrendered 306 rushing yards. It was, in short, a one-sided tail-whipping from start to finish.
Unfortunately for the Golden Tornado, the ‘Dawgs did the dominating in a 42-10 contest that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
Mark Richt, Mike Bobo, and Todd Grantham all brought their evil personae to bear in a 60-minute smackdown in which the Athenians played with focus, intensity, and bad intentions in every phase from start to finish. Malcolm Mitchell returned the opening kickoff 47 yards to set up a four-play drive. Aaron Murray completed a pass to Todd Gurley for an eleven-yard pickup and a first down. Gurley ran for 15 yards and another first down. Murray found Arthur Lynch for 15 more yards to move the chains anew. Gurley finished off the march with a three-yard scamper to paydirt, and the rout was underway.
Georgia Tech’s first drive covered 83 yards but ended with a fumble forced by Bacarri Rambo and returned by the senior free safety to midfield. Five plays later, Gurley picked up ten yards on third and short, setting up a 16-yard Mitchell reception and a pair of one-yard Gurley rushes to put the Classic City Canines up, 14-0. The Ramblin’ Wreck tried to reclaim a share of the momentum with a twelve-play field goal drive followed by a David Scully kickoff---oh, of course the Yellow Jackets have a placekicker named for an “X Files” character!---that left the ‘Dawgs scrimmaging from their own 15 yard line, but Murray erased the home team’s poor starting field position with a 57-yard completion to Mitchell on first down. Two long Keith Marshall runs later, Georgia was in the end zone and the good guys had built up a 21-3 second-quarter advantage.
The next two possessions respectively ended with a Vad Lee seven-yard loss on fourth down and a Collin Barber punt before Rambo righted the wrong of a misplaced penalty against Georgia on a play that ought to have seen a flag thrown against Georgia Tech by intercepting a Lee aerial to spark a 68-yard Bulldog march capped off by a Rhett McGowan touchdown catch. A missed Yellow Jacket field goal attempt sent the contest to intermission with the host squad up by a 25-point margin.
The third period saw more of the same, as the Engineers received the opening kickoff, lost a combined eleven yards on their first three plays, and punted. The next seven snaps saw the ‘Dawgs alternate Murray completions with Gurshall rushes, culminating in a 24-yard touchdown strike to Jay Rome. Another Georgia Tech three-and-out followed, after which Murray found Tavarres King for 19 yards and Lynch for 15 more. Marshall covered the final 17 yards to put the Red and Black out in front, 42-3.
The Golden Tornado’s next two series saw the visitors turn the ball over on downs, but the Yellow Jackets finally managed a touchdown against the Bulldog reserves at the midpoint of the fourth quarter. At that juncture, Parker Welch gave way to Christian LeMay, then Georgia Tech’s final futile drive took eleven plays and nearly four minutes to net 14 yards, ending in a third consecutive Lee incompletion, this time on fourth and 22. Welch knelt out the Bulldogs’ 63rd victory over their in-state rival by the ninth-largest margin ever recorded by the Red and Black against the Ramblin’ Wreck.
Gurshall combined for 163 of Georgia’s 164 rushing yards, while Mitchell led all receivers with three catches for 88 yards. Murray, who connected on 14 of 17 pass attempts for 215 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks, became the first quarterback in SEC history to throw for 3,000+ yards in each of three consecutive campaigns. Gurley is one rushing score away from tying Herschel Walker’s school record of 15 touchdowns as a freshman tailback. Georgia has scored more points in twelve games in 2012 (456) than the Bulldogs managed in their record-setting 14-game 2002 season (450). Meanwhile, Alec Ogletree established a career high with 15 tackles.
The 2012 SEC East champions will head to the Georgia Dome next Saturday to face the Alabama Crimson Tide with the conference crown and a national title shot on the line. For now, though, Bulldog Nation needs to pause and be grateful, not just for the state championship, but for the absolutely dominant way in which it was secured by a Red and Black squad that appeared as focused, talented, and well-coached as any in all the land.
For what it’s worth, Georgia went undefeated between the hedges this autumn, making 2012 just the third season in school history in which the ‘Dawgs went 7-0 in Sanford Stadium. The second time was in 2002, when Mark Richt’s once-beaten Bulldogs followed up a dominant home win over the Yellow Jackets with an SEC title and a bowl victory. The first time was in 1980, when a 1,000-yard true freshman tailback led the Red and Black to a national championship.