State rivalries are always significant but even more so in a disappointing season when there is little else on the line but bragging rights and so it was for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Georgia Bulldogs in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon. With both teams coming in at 7-4, no conference championship and national ranking to point to few people outside of Georgia were interested in this match-up between in-state rivals. That was a shame because it turned out to be a great game. For Georgia it marked the starting debut for its quarterback and Atlanta native, Hutson Mason.
While Georgia was a slight favorite no one could have anticipated the manner in which it won the game. A packed house of 54, 915 at Bobby Dodd stadium were left breathless as the Georgia Bulldogs with a new starting quarterback, Hutson Mason, fought back from a 20 point deficit to win 41-34 after two overtimes.
Receiving the kick-off Georgia Tech did something completely unexpected in the first quarter; a run-oriented offense became balanced and their passing created some big gains including completions of 68, 43, and 26 yards on their first three drives all of which put points on the board for the Yellow Jackets.
In contrast to Tech’s explosive start on offense, the Bulldogs stumbled out of the gate; only 45 yards of total offense, an interception and no points to show for Hutson Mason’s first quarter as the Bulldogs starting quarterback.
The quarter ended with Tech up 17-0 and with Tech fans surprised and ecstatic while Georgia fans were stunned and subdued.
The second quarter started with another field goal for Tech, increasing their lead to 20 points. Coach Mark Richt said later “I felt like it was going to be a matter of time before we could make things happen offensively. Georgia Tech scored four times in the first half. You never know how important it is to force a field goal. When we had it at 20, it gives you a lot more hope that when it is at 28.”
Chasing a 20-point lead the Bulldogs needed to create something and, in the last two minutes, Mason showed why he taken over from the injured Aaron Murray as the Bulldog starting quarterback. Four successive completions for 13, 10, 22, and 10 yards and a 16-yard rush took Bulldogs from their own 14-yard line deep into Yellow Jacket territory where Mason then threw a 9 yard completion for the TD to give the Bulldog nation something to cheer at the half.
The second half marked the continuation of the Bulldog revival. Georgia started with the ball and scored a field goal to take the score to 20-10. Tech missed a field goal from 43 yards and then Mason went to work again.
Pass completions of 33, 14, and 11 yards and an unsportmanslike conduct penalty against Tech moved the ball to the Tech 9-yard line where Mason completed a pass to Michael Bennett for the touchdown.
Mason’s confidence grew with every possession and his protection was more solid in the second half providing him vital time to make some great passes that ended up swinging the momentum in Georgia’s favor.
But Tech wasn’t done yet either, a 14-play, 75-yard drive early in the fourth quarter accomplished two things for Tech; it added seven points to their lead, now back up to 10 points and it ate up almost seven minutes of the clock.
With just over ten minutes left and a 10-point lead no-one was able to relax.
Mason went to work quickly and took less than four minutes to manufacture a scoring drive that included a big completion on fourth and six before Todd Gurley took the ball in for the touchdown to reduce the lead to three.
With little more than six minutes left Tech needed to control the clock and steadily march downfield but on the second play of the drive an interception and subsequent 18-yard return by J Harvey Clemons set up Georgia on Tech’s 25-yard line. Marshall Morgan, Georgia’s kicker, tied the game up from 32 yards to tie the game at 27.
With no more scoring in regulation the game moved into overtime. Tech had the ball first and, after a seven-play drive Vad Lee ran in for the touchdown. The point after by Butker put Tech back up by seven.
Georgia looked to Sophomore running back, Todd Gurley and he didn’t disappoint; three quick rushes and he was in for the touchdown. Morgan, who hadn’t missed all day made the extra point, 34-34!
In the second overtime Georgia had the ball first and Todd Gurley again found the end-zone, this time on the first offensive play; a 25-yard rush by Gurley and subsequent point after by Morgan put the Dogs up 41-34. That score proved to be the winning one as Tech could not get the ball in the end zone in their possession and Georgia won the game they had been losing by 20 points.
After the game, Tech’s head coach Paul Johnson summed it up perfectly, "It was a tough game. I was proud of our guys effort. It was a hard game to lose. It was a gut wrenching game. It would have been for either side. Really not a whole lot to say about it."
Atlanta native and Georgia quarterback summed it up from his perspective, “"This is what it's all about. All those times when I thought about transferring and sitting and talking with Coach Richt in his office, this game, this type of game is what I dreamed of. This was the kind of game I dreamed of being a part of. I'm so thankful for this opportunity, and I'm just glad to be a Bulldog."
Georgia has now won five straight against Georgia Tech and 12 of the last 13. With their regular seasons over both teams look to the bowl season for a “win”. CBS predicts that Tech will end up in Shreveport while Georgia will be in Nashville.