ATLANTA -- The message was there for the Georgia Tech players when they arrived in the weight room this week: 51-7, the score from last year's game against Georgia.
"Once it was a final, it was the worst feeling I've felt since I've been here, being embarrassed like that," Yellow Jackets wide receiver Jonathan Smith said Tuesday. "We're going to try to use that as motivation and not let that happen again."
Newspaper clippings, including photos of the Bulldogs' celebration, joined the score on the wall in the weight room. When players got there Sunday, a day after a 29-17 loss to Virginia, that was the first thing they saw.
"I told the team that I know I will never forget it," coach Chan Gailey said. "Probably as long as you live, it's something you never forget, but it has no bearing on this game."
Good thing. The margin of victory last year was the largest ever in the series, which dates back to 1893, and the 51 points put up by the Bulldogs was their highest total against Georgia Tech.
They sprinted to a 34-0 lead at the half, thanks mostly a fumbled kickoff return by P.J. Daniels and an interception thrown by A.J. Suggs. The only scoring threat for the Yellow Jackets was a 49-yard field goal attempt, which appropriately was blocked.
Georgia fans began singing "Hey, hey, hey, goodbye!" with five minutes left in the third quarter, but most of the Georgia Tech fans were long gone by then.
"I try not to think about it," Yellow Jackets center Hugh Reilly said. "I don't know if we were prepared to play that type of game."
The defeat was so thorough that Gailey vowed never to show the tape to his team, a promise he's kept so far. Smith still hasn't seen it, but Reilly watched it a few times on his own.
"Basically, I was just trying to see what kind of mistakes I made personally," he said.
The Yellow Jackets (6-5) are bowl eligible for a school-record seventh straight year, but they likely won't discover their postseason destination until after Saturday's game. They tied for fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference, quite an improvement from a preseason poll that had them eighth, ahead of only Duke.
"This is a new season, a new time, and we're a new team," safety Chris Reis said.
But in a rivalry such as this, bragging rights for the year mean a lot. Smith heard from Georgia wide receiver Fred Gibson last week, with Gibson offering more good-natured trash talk about last year's game.
Daryl Smith, from the south Georgia town of Albany, was asked over and over in the offseason about the game, but he couldn't offer any reasons.
"I really didn't have an answer," he said. "But when it rains, it pours, and it kept pouring in that game. That had to be the worst loss I've ever experienced."
The loss to the Cavaliers last week ruined a chance for Georgia Tech to go to the Tangerine Bowl, and quarterback Reggie Ball - a freshman who wasn't around for the debacle last year against the Bulldogs - took most of the blame. He was 16-for-30 for 157 yards and an interception, and he was sacked once.
So far this season, he's responded well after poor performances, so his coach expects him to be ready.
"If you can come back too quick after losing, you're in the wrong business," Gailey said. "But if you can't come back (at all), you're in the wrong business.
"In the short amount of time I've been around him, I think he has the personality to handle it. He's just got to go play. He can't do anything about last week."
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