Originally created 11/27/98

Jackets set on ending streak



ATLANTA -- Signs of animosity can be found from the school's fight song's lyrics to the pool hall within the student center where a mocking picture of UGA hovers wearing a gold and blue Yellow Jackets sweater.

Plain and simple, Georgia Tech folk think Georgia folk are classless and crude, while Bulldogs people think Jackets people are uppity and unctuous. As this rivalry week simmers with enough name-calling and finger-pointing, the old-fashioned hate that brews every day, every year between these two fandoms and institutions takes center stage.

This hasn't been a rivalry in football this decade, but more of a roast. And the Bulldogs have all the one-liners.

Hey, did you hear the one about the Yellow Jackets' secondary? Tech sororities can defend passes better. Ha, ha, ha.

How many Tech students does it take to screw in a light bulb? All of them, and they get a full credit in electrical engineering.

All this ribbing, based on a series-record seven consecutive Georgia victories, seems to have finally crawled under the Jackets' skin. 'Bout time, I say. Enough is enough, they say.

"It's a pride thing now," multipurpose senior Charlie Rogers said. "When you've got a bully beating you up all the time, it's time to step up to the challenge. We haven't done that."

Four football wins since 1980. Tech even lost a prized quarterback recruit, Quincy Carter, to Georgia. Good Jackets teams have found ways to lose to bad Bulldogs teams. Good Bulldogs teams have pounded bad Jackets teams. Be it by field goals, pass interference penalties, untimely fumbles, unscrupulous tackling; Tech has engineered enough loses to upset the ghosts of John Heisman and Bobby Dodd.

"To keep a rivalry going, you've got to win some games too," said Tech coach George O'Leary, who was defensive coordinator for the Jackets' last two series wins.

We enter Saturday's game with two teams at 8-2, two teams preparing to play January bowl games in Florida and two teams ranked in the nation's top 20 for the first time in the game's 92-year history.

The only history of concern is recent. Like 1997, when Tech rallied with 14 points to take a late lead, only to see Mike Bobo and Co. march 65 yards in 40 seconds and steal another win 27-24.

"Right now Georgia has that sense of confidence that they'll beat us, no matter how they play," quarterback Joe Hamilton said. "They've just refused to lose the last few years. They've got us by the mind right now. It's our job to turn that all around."

And it's their job to understand how important a victory would be. Only 46 players, less than half the football roster, hail from Georgia, meaning that most must immerse themselves of how deep these rivalry roots run before they can truly comprehend the chasm.

"It's our most important game of the year, but I'm not sure everyone knows that," said fullback Ed Wilder of Washington-Wilkes High.

"This rivalry meant nothing to me growing up," said Rogers, a senior New Jersey native. "Since I've been here, it's all I hear about, so I've had to learn about it. Whether or not the game's important, all I know is we haven't beaten them since I've been here. That's what upsets me.

"The only thing I remember about that game last year is them jumping up and down on our `GT' (at midfield). That didn't sit too well with me or the other players. The coaches showed us the tape of last year, of them celebrating and laughing at us. Nobody said anything, but you could feel the burn."

These bitter feelings extend beyond the gridiron to the Olympic women's sports. In 1994, Tech's women's basketball team, not wanting to be embarrassed with lopsided defeats anymore, refused to play the Lady Dogs. Miffed, Georgia countered by refusing to schedule contests in women's volleyball, women's tennis, track and softball.

This four-year cold war has finally been absolved, thanks to some politicking and common sense on both sides.

That may be the only peace accord these two can reach.

Sports columnist Rick Dorsey can be reached at (706) 823-3219 or rdorsey@augustachronicle.com.