ATHENS, Ga. — Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech teams have almost doubled Georgia’s rushing output in the annual in-state matchup since his arrival in 2008.
The Yellow Jackets posted 200-plus yard ground attacks against the Bulldogs in all five games under Johnson, and Saturday was no different. Tech mustered 306 yards, the eighth time it’s done so this season, but failed to convert those stats into many points in its 42-10 loss.
Johnson’s offense started strong and looked poised to score on its opening possession – at least until Bacarri Rambo forced his first of three takeaways with a strip at the 1-yard line. It was the only fumble that Georgia Tech lost of the five it had, but it quickly turned into points as Georgia responded with a touchdown eight plays later.
“It took a little wind out of our sails,” Georgia Tech running back Zach Laskey said of the turnover. “We came back but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Laskey referenced a holding call that robbed what would have been a 17-yard touchdown run in the fourth. Additionally, a false start in the second forced the Yellow Jackets to pass, which led to an interception by Rambo. Both were only half of the four flags Georgia Tech drew but came in critical stages of the game.
“We left a lot of points out there,” Laskey said. “You’ve got to give (Georgia) credit for holding us to 10 points, but I know that we’re a better offense than that.”
Fellow tailback Robert Godhigh, who finished the day with six attempts for 45 yards, said he thinks so, too. Georgia Tech came into Saturday’s game ranked third in the nation in rushing (325 yards per game) and has ousted its opponent on the ground in 11 of 12 games this year.
But the Yellow Jackets didn’t establish an aerial attack that might have challenged the Bulldogs. Quarterbacks Vad Lee and Tevin Washington combined to throw for 120 yards, below their season average of 135.4 per game.
“That’s the offense they chose to run and that’s the consequences they get,” Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones said.
Jones and the Georgia defense capped back-to-back weeks against the triple-option offense and back-to-back season-highs in rush yards allowed.
Jones however, remains unconcerned. He knew that the Bulldogs would see stout ground games in consecutive weeks (that combined for 608 yards), which is why all of the focus was preventing the two squads from scoring.
“We really wanted to goose-egg them,” Jones said in reference of a possible shutout. “An offense like that is going to make plays. Our main point was to keep them out of the end zone.”
The Bulldogs came close to doing just that. Georgia Tech didn’t score a touchdown until halfway through the fourth, and by that time Georgia coach Mark Richt had pulled most of Georgia’s defensive starters.
Richt likely won’t be doing so next weekend in Atlanta when his squad takes on defending reigning national champion and second-ranked Alabama. The Bulldogs may have benefitted from seeing successive run-first teams in its preparation for the conference championship game. The Crimson Tide trails only Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference in rushing.
“We haven’t stopped practicing against the heavy run,” linebacker Christian Robinson said. “Our focus is now on Alabama.”