Georgia Tech QB Vad Lee, right, tries to escape the Georgia defense Saturday in Athens.
Early fumble sets tone for day for Tech
ATHENS — Georgia Tech wasn’t panicking when No. 3 Georgia needed only four plays to score its first touchdown.
The Yellow Jackets, who averaged 47.7 points in three straight wins before Saturday’s game, aren’t afraid of a shootout.
The damaging momentum shift came when Georgia Tech was 1 yard away from a tying touchdown and running back Robert Godhigh was stripped of the ball by Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo, who returned the fumble recovery to midfield.
Eight plays later, Georgia (11-1) had its second touchdown to set the pace for its lopsided 42-10 win over the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said the turnover provided a “huge” shift and the Yellow Jackets (6-6) couldn’t respond.
“You’ve got to give him some credit for doing it, but it was a killer,” Johnson said. “We just couldn’t overcome it. We couldn’t match them score for score, which is what we’ve been doing.”
Johnson talked to his players during the week about avoiding turnovers and making the most of possessions.
“I was just trying to fight for extra yards and I was doing that,” Godhigh said. “The guy just came and stripped it from me.
“I was just trying to make a play for the offense and get more yards and he just got me. … We got down in the red zone and that was all we had talked about all week, turnovers, and I lost the ball on that first drive. That just kind of messed it up for the offense.”
Georgia Tech senior quarterback Tevin Washington said the fumble “shifted momentum” but wasn’t the only reason for the team’s fourth straight loss in the rivalry.
“It’s very frustrating,” Washington said. “We’ve been pounding all week to take care of the ball, do the little things right and we’d give ourselves a chance to be in the ballgame. When you go out there, I feel like we just laid an egg.”
Georgia Tech will have to regroup for next week’s Atlantic Coast Conference game against Florida State. The Yellow Jackets won the Coastal Division with a 5-3 conference record after Miami self-imposed a bowl ban for the second straight year.
Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy said frustrations affected the defense, which has struggled all season, late in the game.
“We’ve got to stick together because some guys were fading apart during the last bit of the game,” Nealy said. “We’ve got to stick together and hold tight because we’ve got something big coming up next week.”
Asked what he meant by “fading apart,” Nealy said “A lot of talking and stuff, pointing fingers instead of staying together as a team.”
Added Nealy: “It’s still a team. We’re still together. At the end of the day we’re going to have each other’s back.”
Washington completed 6 of 9 passes for 55 yards while sharing time with Vad Lee, who completed 4 of 12 passes for 65 yards and had eight carries for 42 yards.
Washington had X-rays on his right wrist after the game but said he’s “good” for the ACC championship game.
For Washington and other seniors, the loss was especially painful.
“It’s real disappointing,” he said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow. I’ve got to wish the best for the program in the future.”
The Yellow Jackets were held to their fewest points of the season despite finishing with advantages over Georgia in first downs (26-18) and total yards (426-379) and holding the ball almost 40 minutes, or twice as long as the Bulldogs.
The Yellow Jackets’ only touchdown came midway through the final quarter on David Sims’ 9-yard run. By that time, Georgia led 42-3 and was resting its starters while looking ahead to next week’s Southeastern Conference championship against Alabama.
Georgia led 28-3 at halftime and put the game away with two quick touchdowns in the third quarter, including freshman Keith Marshall’s second scoring run. Georgia’s other freshman tailback, Todd Gurley, also ran for two touchdowns.
“It was a pretty good thumping,” Johnson said. “We could not slow them down at all, which has been a recurring theme the last few times we’ve played them and we couldn’t finish drives offensively.”
Rambo created another turnover in the second quarter when he intercepted a deep pass from Vad Lee. Gurley had back-to-back runs of 21 and 22 yards before Aaron Murray’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Rhett McGowan.
Georgia Tech had 306 yards rushing despite playing without leading rusher Orwin Smith, who was held out with a sprained right ankle. Sims led the team with 14 carries for 71 yards. Zach Laskey had 15 carries for 56 yards.
“I think they have a good defense,” Laskey said. “I know for a fact we left a lot of points out there. You’ve got to give them credit for holding us to 10 points, but I know we’re a better offense than that.”
ATHENS — With his interception and fumble recovery in Georgia’s 42-10 rout of archrival Georgia Tech on Saturday at Sanford Stadium, former Seminole County star and Donasonville native Bacarri Rambo cemented his status as one of the Bulldogs’ all-time great turnover artists.
In addition to the turnovers being his fourth and fifth takeaways this season, the interception of Tech’s Vad Lee in the second quarter was the 16th pick of the redshirt senior’s career, tying Jake Scott for the school record.
“I feel like I have a knack for the ball,” said Rambo, who has a combined 19 interceptions and fumble recoveries for his career. “I understand how quarterbacks think because I played quarterback in high school (at Seminole). I just try to help the defense out. If it weren’t for the other guys around me … doing their job and making my job easier, none of this would be possible. I just tip my at to those guys because they make me a better ball player.”
TANNER GETS HIS KICKS: Through five seasons with Tech's program, Norcross grad Chris Tanner has gotten few opportunities to see action.
But trouble in the Yellow Jackets' kicking game created a chance for the redshirt senior, which he has seized since being thrown in to the starting placekicker's role two weeks ago in Tech's win at North Carolina.
While Tech piled up 238 yards of total offense in the first half, it was Tanner who supplied the Jackets with their only offense late in the final seconds of the first quarter, when a Tech drive stalled at the Georgia 21-yard line.
And despite a delay when Bulldogs coach Mark Richt challenged a ruling on the previous play, the redshirt senior was true on the ensuing 38-yard field goal to set a career long and get the Jackets on the board.
Tanner missed his next attempt from 36 yards just before halftime, but connected on an extra point attempt late in the game, and now 3-for-4 on field goals and 29-for-29 on extra points for his career.
STINCHCOMB REPRESENTS: Former Bulldogs All-American offensive lineman Join Stinchcomb served as the Bulldogs' honorary captain Saturday, accompanying the team's current captains to midfield for the pregame coin flip.
He made 46 starts in his career at Georgia, including serving as offensive captain on the Bulldogs' 2002 SEC and Sugar Bowl championship team, before heading onto a professional career with the New Orleans Saints.
PLENTY OF SEATS AVAILABLE: Much was made about the approximately 1,900 tickets Georgia Tech's athletic association returned to Georgia's weeks prior to Saturday game on message boards of the two schools.
However, those weren't the only empty seats among the announced crowd of 92,746 at Sanford Stadium.
There also plenty of empties scattered throughout Georgia's sections, particularly in the upper Northeast corner of the stadium.
RECORD-SETTING SATURDAY FOR BULLDOGS: There were two more new entries to Georgia’s record book Saturday.
Team-wise, the Bulldogs set a new single-season school mark for most points in a season with 456, breaking the old record of 450 set over 14 games in 2002.
Defensively, junior linebacker Alec Ogletree posted a career-high 15 tackles, which was also a team-beset mark this season.