Football drops home finale to Georgia, 30-24

Georgia beat No.7 Tech at Bobby Dodd stadium on Saturday night, 30-24.

Junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt completed six of 12 passes for 135 yards and had two total touchdowns, one rushing and one passing. Junior B-back Jonathan Dwyer was held to his second lowest output of the season, 14 carries for 33 yards.

“It didn’t matter if I rushed for 100 million yards or zero. I just wanted to win the game. We didn’t play our best game. They came out hungry and ready to play and we didn’t respond,” Dwyer said.

Neither team punted in the mostly offense-oriented game, but Georgia outgained Tech on the ground by a significant amount. The Bulldogs finished with 339 rushing yards and held the Jackets to 205, one year after Tech piled up nearly twice as many yards on the ground in Sanford Stadium. Georgia running backs Caleb King and Washaun Ealey had 18 rushes for 170 yards and 20 rushes for 183 yards, respectively.

“We had a hard time getting them off the field…there’s a lot of pressure to score every time,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson.

Despite being down 17-3 at halftime, Tech was able to bring the score within six points in the middle of the fourth quarter, closing to within 30-24. Tech’s defense helped get the ball back in the hands of Nesbitt and the offense with 3:02 to go in the game when they tackled King for a loss of three yards at Tech’s 37 yard-line, forcing a 55-yard field goal attempt that Georgia kicker Blair Walsh missed wide left.

After the kick missed, Tech began driving the ball. Sophomore A-back Roddy Jones gained eight yards and converted a fourth and one on Tech’s own 46 to set the ball up on Georgia’s 46-yard line with just under two minutes to play.

The Jackets then called four consecutive pass plays, looking to cover most of the distance to the goal in one motion. On the first play, Nesbitt could not complete a post route to junior wide receiver Demayrius Thomas in the end-zone.

The second play had freshman wide receiver Stephen Hill run a wheel route down the right sideline. Hill appeared to catch Nesbitt’s long pass and get pushed out of bounds at the two-yard line. Whether he had control of the ball and whether he had gotten a foot in bounds were both in question, and the officials ruled the pass incomplete and did not review the play.

“That’s a few feet away from being a catch on the two-yard line,” Johnson said.

On the third play of the final drive, Nesbitt missed an option route to redshirt junior A-back Anthony Allen. The last play of the drive had Nesbitt throwing the ball to Thomas on a much shorter out route to gain a first down, but the ball was dropped.

Georgia took over on downs and kneeled to run out the clock.

“[I told Thomas to] just keep your head up because you have done a lot of great things for this team. Don’t let one play define what you have done,” Nesbitt said.

Tech had to deal with numerous injury scares throughout the game. Late in Georgia’s first drive of the game, redshirt junior defensive tackle Ben Anderson was hurt and escorted to the locker room. He did not return to the game.

“We’re already limited as far as defensive line and it was really sad to see him go, but it’s up to the next guy to step up, fill in the gap,” said junior defensive end Derrick Morgan.

Later in the first half, Nesbitt twisted his leg while moving forward for a four-yard gain. He had to leave the game for two of Tech’s next offensive possessions, but returned for the last one of the half.

“I was going to force myself to play. I never wanted to go back in the locker room, but I had to go back in [and] get re-taped,” Nesbitt said.

Sophomore Jaybo Shaw took over as quarterback while Nesbitt was out. Shaw, who started two games last season but has not seen much playing time in 2009, finished Tech’s first drive that ended in a field goal, but on the first play of Tech’s next possession he threw an interception on a deep pass to Thomas.

Hill was injured on the catch he made on the last drive of the game and was also forced to the locker room.

While Tech lost by only six points, it was unable to stop or establish the running game. Without receiver A.J. Green, Georgia turned almost exclusively to its ground game. The Bulldogs ran the ball 44 times in the game, including the first 12 offensive plays, and finished with the 339 yards on the ground.

Tech had 51 rushes and averaged just over 4.0 yards per carry, well below their average of 5.9 heading into Saturday’s game. The output was Tech’s second lowest of the season.

The offense fumbled the ball three times, losing it once when Nesbitt and Dwyer got tangled up on a fake handoff late in the third quarter.

The loss was Tech’s eighth against Georgia in the last nine years. The last time the Jackets defeated the Bulldogs at home was 1999. Tech has just three home wins against Georgia since 1985.

The game ended several of Tech’s streaks. Tech had won eight straight before the game and had not lost at home since last year’s homecoming game against Virginia. They had six consecutive games of gaining 300 or more rushing yards going into the contest. They had not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Ryan Williams gained 100 in the game against Virginia Tech. They had not allowed a rusher to gain over 125 yards, much less two rushers.

“Growing up in-state, you always have the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry, it’s always on your mind. To be a part of it and go in the direction that it did…for me to be on the losing team, it just hurts,” said freshman linebacker Julian Burnett.

Tech’s next game is the Dec. 5th ACC Championship Game in Tampa, Fla. against Clemson, which is coming off a loss to South Carolina. It is a rematch of the Week 2 game that had Tech winning 30-27 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The winner of the game is guaranteed a BCS berth, likely in the Orange Bowl.

“I think we’ll definitely use this [loss] as motivation [for the ACC championship game]. I know that [Clemson] lost their rivalry game, too, so they are going to come out just as fired up and it’s going to come down to execution,” Jones said.