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Georgia Bulldogs 31, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 17: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Ten-Game Winning Streak

Because the talking heads on ESPN love a good reliable narrative, I will look at today’s victory through the Worldwide Leader’s preferred lens and state that there have been three storylines to the Georgia Bulldogs’ 2011 football season, all three of which were on display at historic Grant Field today.

The first storyline has been utterly unrepresentative box scores. Except for the Bulldogs’ games against the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Auburn Tigers, all of Georgia’s victories over conference competition have been in games the Red and Black dominated on the stat sheet to a degree not reflected on the scoreboard.

Today, too, the box score did not square with the final margin, though not in the usual respect. A look at this afternoon’s numbers reveals that the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets had more first downs (20-18) and fewer penalties (5-6), the Engineers led in time of possession (30:39-29:21), the Ramblin’ Wreck converted seven of 16 third downs, and the Golden Tornado amassed only 25 fewer yards of total offense than the Classic City Canines.

This might lead a neutral observer to conclude that the game was closer than the final score indicated. This is not the case. In fact, it was a pretty thorough tail-whipping.

This game was over 96 seconds into the third quarter. The Athenians, who led by a touchdown at intermission, began the second half with a 60-yard kickoff return and three completed passes covering 36 yards, culminating in a touchdown. The Atlantans got the ball back trailing 24-10 and proceeded to gain no yards on first down, lose six yards on second down, and throw an interception on third down.

Although Georgia squandered opportunities to turn it into a 2002-style blowout, there was no point thereafter at which there was any credible risk of Georgia Tech mounting a comeback, as Paul Johnson essentially conceded through his second-half coaching decisions, which were as condescendingly grudging yet inescapably resigned as an election night telephone call from Adlai Stevenson to Dwight Eisenhower. Fewer than 18 minutes remained in the game when the ‘Dawgs took a 21-point lead, and everything that happened thereafter was purely cosmetic. Synjyn Days padded both his and the Yellow Jackets’ statistics with a trash touchdown, after which Ken Malcome ground out 36 yards and three first downs on nine carries to run off more than five minutes of clock time and essentially end the game.

In a series that has seen six of the last seven meetings settled by margins of eight or fewer points, a 14-point win qualifies as pretty dominant, but, that aside, the Bulldogs never trailed, Aaron Murray completed touchdown passes to four different receivers in the course of a 252-yard day, the Red and Black averaged the same 4.6 yards per rush as the vaunted Georgia Tech triple option, and the fourth-quarter scoring was as meaningless as that seen in the New Mexico State game. Make no mistake; this was a solid thumping of a good team by a better team, so much so that none neither of the intellectually honest Georgia Tech fans will be able to claim (as so many of their coevals have for the last decade) that we just “got lucky.” No, “getting lucky” is what Mark Richt does with the water girl after clinching the SEC East; the superior squad emerging victorious is what happens when Georgia meets Georgia Tech.

This brings us to the second storyline, overcoming adversity. Dating back to the offseason losses of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, this Georgia squad has been dealing almost continuously with personnel losses, most often to injury and sometimes to poor decisionmaking. That theme continued today, as Isaiah Crowell never saw the field and DeAngelo Tyson (not, as I previously, and erroneously, stated, Kwame Geathers) was lost in the early going, yet still the Bulldogs rushed for 128 yards and limited Georgia Tech to two ends of halves, a field goal, two interceptions, three punts, two touchdowns, and one turnover on downs in eleven possessions. Les Miles gets a disproportionate degree of credit for overcoming a couple of offseason arrests with the most talented team in the country, but, for my money---and, as a season ticket holder, some of it literally is my money---no coach in the country has confronted more adversity more successfully than Mark Richt, who ought to be named SEC coach of the year for the third time in his career this season.

This, in turn, brings us to the third storyline, the cool customer who overcame the hot seat. Three straight seasons of diminishing returns in the win column, capped off by a 6-7 campaign featuring ugly wins to inferior opponents, put Mark Richt’s job in jeopardy, and a lackluster effort in the opener against the Boise St. Broncos appeared to seal his fate . . . yet 0-2 became 4-2 with a win in Knoxville over the Tennessee Volunteers, then 6-2 with a win in Jacksonville over the Florida Gators, then 8-2 with a win in Athens over the Auburn Tigers, and now 10-2 with a win over the pompous blowhard who insults opposing fans by accusing them of working for a company whose CEO is an alumnus of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Admittedly, it will be a tall order, to say the least, for the Classic City Canines to take down the LSU Tigers in the Georgia Dome next Saturday, but let us not forget what it took for this team to get there in the first place, and let us not forget how many of the key contributors to this ten-game winning streak are freshmen and sophomores.

Yes, I know, this Tennessee team isn’t as good as the Volunteers of the 1990s, and this Florida team isn’t as good as the Gators of the 1990s, and this Auburn team isn’t as good as the Tigers of 2010, and this Georgia Tech team isn’t as good as the NCAA-penalized Yellow Jackets of 2009 NCAA-penalized Yellow Jackets of the late 1990s Yellow Jackets of the 1950s, but hotly-contested rivalry games are hotly-contested rivalry games, records be damned, and the Bulldogs just won every dadgum one of them. Folks can minimize this achievement all they like, but a ten-win season featuring victories over all four current major annual rivals and an Eastern Division championship is a good season, period, and this young club is only going to get better.

In short, the Red and Black were as good on the field as their record suggests, they overcame adversity as well as any team in the country, Mark Richt deservedly will be the head coach in the Classic City for as long as he likes, it’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog, and I’m not going to let anyone kill my buzz good mood.

Go ‘Dawgs!