ATLANTA -- In the days leading up to last Saturday's rivalry game with Georgia, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson took great pains to state that one game -- not even one against his team's biggest rival -- wouldn't define the season.
He hadn't changed his mind following the then-No. 7 Yellow Jackets' 30-24 upset loss to the Bulldogs, even though pretty much any Tech partisan among the sellout crowd of 55,407 at Bobby Dodd Stadium and elsewhere might have a different point of view.
"I'm extremely disappointed with the outcome of the game," Johnson said. "(But) you have to move on. You're disappointed that you lost the game, but it's never as good or bad as it seems. You can't let one game define a season. Our No. 1 goal was to try to win the ACC, and we will lay for that next week in Tampa. Like I said, we're all disappointed. It was a big game and we wanted to win, but it just didn't happen. You just move on."
To be sure, the Jackets (10-2) still have a chance at a historic season.
Victories in the ACC Championship Game this weekend against Clemson in Tampa and a subsequent BCS bowl that would come with it would allow them to tie the school record for most wins in a season (12) set in the 1952 national championship season.
Still, that may seem like small consolation to Tech's fan base that had finally felt its team turned the tide on the series dominated by Georgia in recent years after last year's win in Athens.
Now, a conference championship and possible record are the goals that are left after another one fell short Saturday.
And make no mistake, the Jackets know they have no time to wallow in self pity -- not with an equally-disappointed Clemson team fresh off a loss in its rivalry game against South Carolina waiting for them in the ACC title game.
"We have no choice but to get back into the mindset of getting over this," Tech B-back Jonathan Dwyer said. "If we go into this next week against Clemson, it's not going to look good if we go in with our heads down. We need to get over this and fast, and we have a bigger game to worry about."
As much as the perception of this season may have changed for Tech with the outcome of Saturday's game, it may have changed even more for Georgia.
Having struggled to a 6-5 mark through the first 11 games -- the worst to that point since Mark Richt took over as coach in 2001 -- the win against Tech was just the tonic the entire Bulldog nation needed.
"Well, I feel a lot better," Richt said. "I think our fans feel good about how we finished. ... Considering how our season's gone, and playing one of the hottest teams in America -- one of the best teams in America -- in their house, to get the victory was a great tribute to the Georgia football program."
Suddenly, a potential .500 season heading into a lower-tier bowl has turned in a much more palatable 7-5 with a better bowl starting the Bulldogs in the face.
There are still, however, a few "what ifs" for Richt, his players and staff and Georgia fans, but Saturday's win certainly makes everyone feel better about the direction of the program.
"There are definitely things we need to correct, but I think everything's correctable," he said.