If that happens, of course, I will take some solace in the fact that the '73 'Dawgs ended their season on a three-game run of victories, beating both Auburn and Georgia Tech before winning the Peach Bowl against an A.C.C. opponent.
In his final year of coursework as a student at the acclaimed Georgia Institute of Technology, Reggie Ball remains as bad at math as ever.
Yes, Reggie, there are four downs in football, not five (as Yellow Jacket partisans were quick to point out when disparaging Colorado's achievement in 1990), but, no, Reggie, it hasn't just been the last couple of years, it's been the last six . . . and 13 of the last 16 (with all three of the recent Ramblin' Wreck victories requiring flagrant rules violations by the Golden Tornado that subsequently subjected the Institute to N.C.A.A. sanctions and with two of those three ill-gotten Georgia Tech wins requiring blatantly erroneous officiating calls on top of the Yellow Jackets' cheating).
As always, Reggie Ball talked the talk without walking the walk . . . or counting the count.
I am getting ahead of myself, though, aren't I?
It was a great win against a good Georgia Tech squad that proved to be exactly as advertised. The Yellow Jackets were solid in the kicking game, netting 91 yards on three kickoff returns, splitting the uprights on a pair of field goal tries, and averaging nearly 45 yards per punt. Jon Tenuta's defense was as fast and fierce as expected, holding the Georgia offense scoreless for 58 minutes and 15 seconds.
The Ramblin' Wreck's offense also did what it was expected to do, as Tashard Choice earned 146 yards on 23 attempts, averaging an impressive 6.3 yards per carry and scoring the visitors' only touchdown. Also among the unsurprising elements of the Georgia Tech offense were Reggie Ball, who was as subject to being rattled by the Bulldogs and by the crowd as ever, and Calvin Johnson, a big-play receiver who is not a big-game performer.
Ball completed just six of his 22 passes, tallying an anemic 42 yards through the air and tossing two interceptions without ever connecting on a touchdown throw. A Ball fumble also led to seven Georgia points, as Tony Taylor made a heads-up play to retrieve the ball from the scrum while still on his feet and return the recovered pigskin 29 yards for a touchdown.
You know your defense is having a good night when it scores as many touchdowns as it allows.
The underappreciated Paul Oliver once again held the overrated Calvin Johnson completely in check, perfectly defending a pair of passes in the end zone that hit C.J. on the hands yet fell harmlessly to earth. Oliver also snagged the final toss of the contest, which was intended for Johnson yet found its way into the Georgia defender's grasp to seal the deal. Johnson quietly compiled 13 yards on a pair of catches and his biggest contribution was a 10-yard running play. Georgia Tech picked up first downs on penalties as often as on forward passes.
The Red and Black, on the other hand, did what they had to do to win. The Georgia special teams, once a Bulldog strength, have become a distinct area of concern, but the 'Dawgs found a way to overcome their deficiencies in what was a reliable facet of their game just a few weeks ago.
Between them, Kregg Lumpkin and Danny Ware gained 92 yards on 29 carries. The receiving corps had another solid outing, led by Mohamed Massaquoi's six catches for 46 yards, a touchdown, and a two-point conversion. Martrez Milner did his best Leonard Pope impersonation with three grabs for 33 crucial yards.
While the Georgia D held the opposition to 188 yards of total offense and allowed the Yellow Jackets to convert just four of their 14 third down attempts, the Bulldog O shined when the game was on the line. Over the course of the afternoon and early evening, the Red and Black gained a respectable 255 yards and moved the chains 10 times in 18 third-down tries.
Why waste time with too much offense when just enough offense will do nicely?
In spite of a fumble on a botched center-quarterback exchange, Matthew Stafford remained poised in the face of an aggressive, hard-charging defense. The Georgia freshman connected on 16 of his 29 pass attempts for 171 yards and the game-winning touchdown and, for the second consecutive game, he did not throw an interception. Stafford's maturity was on display on several occasions, when he made the sound decision to throw the ball safely out of bounds or tuck the ball away and take a sack rather than risk a momentum-changing turnover.
With his team trailing 12-7 and a little over eight and a half minutes remaining in the game, Stafford took the field at his own 36 yard line. Three plays and three first downs later, the Bulldogs found themselves at their opponents' 25 yard line. Despite facing three third-down situations in the ensuing nine plays, Georgia finished the drill, punching in the go-ahead score before giving the ball back to the Yellow Jackets, who would have to go 82 yards in 96 seconds to make up the three-point deficit.
Predictably, they were unable to do this, although a 15-yard personal foul penalty appeared to give the Golden Tornado new life when, otherwise, Reggie Ball almost assuredly would have spiked the ball on fourth and 17 to kill the clock. In the end, though, the 'Dawgs did what they had to do.
The same could be said for Lefty, but that's a separate conversation.
After leaving Sanford Stadium, I ducked into the restroom on the bottom floor of the Tate Center, where I overheard a Georgia fan saying, "It wasn't pretty, but it was a win!" Later, when crossing through the Tate Center plaza, I passed by a Georgia Tech fan in line at the A.T.M. by the bookstore. He pointed at me and said, "You got lucky."
"And you got Reggie," I replied . . . but both of those fellows were quite wrong. No, we didn't get lucky and, yes, it was pretty. Two good defenses battled for 60 minutes, with each forcing errors by the opposing offenses that led to points in a classic struggle. Had Erk Russell or Bobby Dodd been on hand, they would have thought it was a pretty game . . . and, in the end, the better team won.
The night before the contest, I predicted a four-point Georgia victory. Clearly, I underestimated Georgia Tech, since the Bulldogs only won by three. Nevertheless, it was a win, and one in which the Red and Black trailed at the half yet came back to outscore the opposition in the final two quarters. This, by itself, was a welcome change which confirmed that Mark Richt was right not to listen to yahoos like me.
That's why he's the head coach and I have a weblog.
In the larger historical context, the Yellow Jacket faithful must be feeling right now the way Bulldog Nation felt following the 2002 and 2003 Georgia-Florida games: "If we can't beat these guys now under these conditions, when will we ever beat them?"
This was Georgia Tech's best hope in a long time . . . and perhaps its last hope for a long time to come. The six straight series victories by the Bulldogs from 2001 to 2006 match the Red and Black's winning streak over the Golden Tornado from 1978 to 1983. A Georgia victory at historic Grant Field next fall would tie the Classic City Canines' longest run of success over the Ramblin' Wreck, from 1991 to 1997, and victories by the 'Dawgs in 2007 and 2008 would equal the record-setting eight straight series wins by the Yellow Jackets over the Bulldogs from 1949 to 1956. If this Georgia team could beat this Georgia Tech team, who doubts that Matthew Stafford will be able to lead the Red and Black to wins over the Golden Tornado in the next three seasons?
I know that many Georgia fans take the rivalry with Georgia Tech much more seriously than I do. While I find many members of the Yellow Jacket faithful to be pathetic, ignorant, obnoxious, and suffering from a serious case of "little brother" syndrome, I cannot bring myself to feel clean old-fashioned hate for the Ramblin' Wreck.
I hate Auburn, but I find Georgia Tech merely as annoying as the insect that represents the program at the Flats. Why? Because I have been alive on the planet for 38 years and I have seen the Bulldogs beat the Yellow Jackets 28 times.
There's a big difference between having his name on the stadium and having his presence on the sideline. (Photograph from The New Georgia Encyclopedia.)
In the first 51 series meetings from 1893 to 1956 (yes, I agree that Ramblin' Racket is right that Georgia should count the 1943 and 1944 series meetings), Georgia Tech held a 24-22-5 advantage over the 'Dawgs.
In the 50 series meetings from 1957 to 2006, however, the Red and Black have posted a 36-14 record against the Ramblin' Wreck.
Let's face it . . . we're just plain better than they are, and that's all there is to it.