Georgia coach Mark Richt, left, shakes the hand of Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson after Saturday's annual rivalry game in Athens. Georgia won easily, 42-10.
ATHENS — At times, Saturday’s renewal of the rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech was reminiscent of the recent election.
The only problem for the visiting Yellow Jackets was that it often looked like the Bulldogs’ offense was running unopposed.
Georgia scored on six of its first eight offensive possessions, needing an average of less than two minutes per trip to pile up those scores, and rolled to a 42-10 rout against its in-state rival Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
The dominating effort sends the No. 3 Bulldogs (11-1) into next week’s SEC Championship Game against No. 2 Alabama at the Georgia Dome — with a possible trip to the BCS National Championship game at stake.
“That was a great victory for us,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We had people talking to us all week about trying to look ahead, or, ‘Were you worried about this, that or the other?’ I didn’t see any signs of that. Our players understand how important this game is to our team and to our fan base. I never had a moment where I was thinking ahead. I just know that’s so dangerous. I just thought everyone did a super job of preparing.”
The overall numbers, other than the score, belied just how dominant Georgia was.
Despite missing leading rusher and playmaker Orwin Smith, who was out with an ankle injury, Tech was able to accumulate some yardage. The Jackets (6-6) actually outgained Georgia in total offense, 426-379, and enjoyed a nearly 2-to-1 (39:56-20:04) advantage in time of possession.
However, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Bulldogs, who got 215 yards and two scores on 14 of 17 passing from Aaron Murray, plus a combined 152 yards and four TDs from freshmen RBs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Gurley finished with 97 yards on 12 carries and now has 14 touchdowns on the season, one shy of Herschel Walker’s school freshman record set in 1980. Marshall, also a freshman, piled up 66 yards on just seven carries.
And the Bulldogs were far more efficient with their possessions, needing just 49 offensive plays to score their 42 points, while the Jackets needed nearly twice as many (88) to manage their 10 and turned the ball over twice, while not forcing any Georgia turnovers.
“We moved the ball on them pretty much the whole game,” said Tech A-Back Robert Godhigh, who finished the day with 111 yards of total offense. “But we lacked focus to finish out our drives. We also didn’t take care of the football. Georgia’s fast, and they play with a lot of effort. They’re always flying to the ball.”
Gov. Nathan Deal presented the “Governor’s Cup” to the Bulldogs (11-1) after they beat the Yellow Jackets for the 11th time in 12 years. He congratulated both teams on a “great game” (a bit of a stretch, to say the least) before turning toward the jubilant Georgia players.
“Keep up the good work,” Deal said. “We’re looking for a national championship.”
Georgia is two wins away.
The Bulldogs will face No. 2 Alabama for the Southeastern Conference championship in Atlanta next Saturday. The winner of that contest will likely advance to play in the BCS title game on Jan. 7.
“All that matters is this game,” Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson said, looking ahead to facing the defending national champion Crimson Tide. “This is everything. This is what you play for.”
The game, meanwhile, was one coach Paul Johnson would like to forget.
“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.”
It didn’t take long for Georgia to break out on top, with Malcolm Mitchell returning the opening kickoff 47 yards to set up the Bulldogs at the Tech 44-yard line.
Four plays later, Gurley bounced in from 3 yards out to give Georgia a 7-0 lead just 1:03 after the opening kickoff.
“It did create a lot of momentum going into that drive,” Mitchell said of his opening kickoff return and Georgia’s early score. “When you score on that drive and score on the next drive, (it builds).”
But it was the Georgia’s next score that really cemented momentum in the Bulldogs’ favor.
Tech tried to respond to the first touchdown by marching 64 yards in nine plays down to the Georgia 20 before an unusual play deep in the red zone.
Godhigh and picked up another first down on a 19-yard gain and was dragging tacklers with him close to the goal line before ex-Seminole County star Bacarri Rambo stripped him of the ball and returned it 49 yards to midfield.
The play survived a video review and a penalty flag, which turned out to the against the Jackets, and put the Bulldogs back in business.
“We were just trying to steal the momentum,” said Rambo, who later had an interception — the 16th of his career to tie the school record. “We already had momentum, but I was just trying to set the tone for the defense and the offense. … We were just trying to put up points to make Georgia Tech get out of their comfort zone.”
Eight plays and 2:42 later, Georgia made Tech more uncomfortable with Gurley battering in again, this time from a yard out, to complete a potential 14-point swing and extend the lead to 14-0 with 6:14 left in the first quarter.
“Any turnover that you get just steals a possession from (Tech),” Richt said. “And there aren’t a lot of possessions in this game compared to other ones because they grind the clock so much. It’s hard to get off the field when they’re out there on offense. … It’s just hard to stop them without a turnover or without a penalty, without something like that, because they’re so good at what they do.”
Tech managed to hang onto the ball on its next possession, marching 54 yards in 12 plays and draining 6:01 off the clock to the Georgia 21.
But the drive stalled, and the Jackets had to settle for a 38-yard field goal from senior walk-on Chris Tanner to cut the deficit to 14-3 with 13 seconds left in the opening frame.
Once again, it didn’t take long for Georgia to answer.
This time, Mitchell got behind the Tech secondary and hauled in Murray’s bomb on the first play from scrimmage after the ensuing kickoff for a 57-yard gain down the Jackets’ 28.
Two more Marshall runs, the latter from 15 yards out, and the Bulldogs were in the end zone once again, and the Georgia lead reached 21-3 just 21 seconds into the second quarter.
Rambo’s interception of Vad Lee and 27-yard return late in the first half set up another quick and easy Georgia scoring drive.
This time, the Bulldogs took to the air, with Murray hooking up with Rhett McGowan on an 11-yard scoring strike to open up the lead to 28-3 with 2:49 left in the half.
Down 42-3 as the game entered the fourth quarter, Tech managed to same some face by driving 71 yards in six plays before David Sims finally got the Jackets into the end zone from 9 yards out to make the score 42-10 with 7:25 remaining.
But it was little consolation for a team with another daunting task ahead of it against 10th-ranked Florida State — which also lost Saturday — in next week’s ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.
“(Saturday) was very frustrating,” Tech quarterback Tevin Washington said. “We just went out there and laid an egg. We didn’t play good as a team (Saturday). It was just a bad overall effort. We shot ourselves in the foot a lot, but we’ve still got a shot at the ACC Championship and a BCS bowl game, so we’ve still got a lot to play for.”
Meanwhile, Georgia can finally turn their attention to bigger things, though while Richt did acknowledge a path to a berth in the BCS national title game being wide open, he said his focus was more narrow towards next week’s SEC title game.
“The Southeastern Conference championship, first of all, stands alone as a very important event,” Richt said. “The chance to get back to Atlanta is fantastic. The chance to win our league in any year is huge. That means a lot to us. What happens beyond that will be decided by the (BCS standings).”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report