Tech drops third straight to UGA

After falling out of contention for the ACC Coastal Division crown, the Jackets were looking to finish the season strong with a win over the rival Georgia Bulldogs. Although they kept the game close in the first half, the Jackets could not overcome their mistakes and fell to the Bulldogs 31-17. Tech has lost ten of the last 11 matchups against Georgia.

The Jackets struggled to move the ball, completing only six of 17 pass attempts while rushing for 243 yards. After going into halftime down by a touchdown, two third-quarter interceptions by redshirt junior quarterback Tevin Washington allowed the Bulldogs to seal the victory. With the loss, the Jackets fell to 8-4 to finish the regular season.

“I give Georgia a lot of credit. They have a good football team and they showed up and played very well. For us, the margin of error was small and we didn’t take advantage of a couple of opportunities that we had early. When we did that we got behind and we could never claw ourselves back into the game. We had a hard time of that. [In the] third quarter we kind of self-destructed offensively [with] the way we were turning the ball over,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson.

Redshirt senior A-back Roddy Jones led the Jackets with 72 yards on the ground on his senior day, along with one reception for six yards. The Jackets averaged 4.6 yards per rushing attempt on the day, their second-lowest average of the season.

The Bulldogs won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. The Jackets started the game off slowly, being forced into a three-and-out after a 15-yard chop block penalty. After a 54-yard punt by the Jackets, the Bulldogs started their first drive on their own 11. The Bulldogs gained 31 yards on the drive, making it to their 42-yard line before Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray threw a deep pass that was intercepted by sophomore cornerback Louis Young at the Tech 27.

The Jackets could not capitalize on the turnover, punting the ball after gaining three first downs. The punt only went to 29 yards and UGA capitalized, rattling off three consecutive plays that each went for over 18 yards.

After a quick five-yard pass from Branden Smith to the 15-yard line, Murray found receiver Michael Bennett for a 15-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

The Jackets looked to respond, and after drawing the Bulldogs offsides on a fourth-and-one situation, redshirt junior quarterback Tevin Washington broke out of the pocket for a 23-yard run to move the Jackets into Bulldog territory. After getting into the red zone, Tech made it as far as two yards from the end zone before having to settle for a 22-yard field goal to cut the score to 7-3.

The Bulldogs responded quickly with Murray leading the way, hitting five of his six pass attempts on his way to a 14-yard touchdown to Chris Conley and a 14-3 lead.

The Jackets got the ball back with 8:20 left in the half, and marched down the field on a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ate 7:07 off of the clock. Facing second and goal, redshirt sophomore B-back David Sims stumbled for five hard-fought yards and the first Tech touchdown of the day. The Sims touchdown brought the score to 14-10 and brought the game to a one-possession match for the second time.

With 1:13 left in the half, the Bulldogs quickly drove 58 yards down the field to try to score a field goal before time subsided. After a 22-yard scramble by Murray and a 14-yard pass, the Bulldogs faced a fourth-and-one situation at the Tech 24. Senior Bulldog kicker Blair Walsh lined up to kick a 41-yard field goal, and Johnson called a quick timeout to try to ice Walsh’s kick attempt. The timeout did not faze him, as he booted the field goal through the uprights to give his team a 17-10 advantage as the teams headed into the locker rooms for halftime.

The Bulldogs responded quickly coming out of the locker room with a 60-yard kickoff return by cornerback Brandon Boykin to start their drive at the Tech 36. After three plays, Murray posted his third touchdown of the day and put Georgia up 24-10.

The Jackets tried to respond, but after a six-yard sack on first down, Washington’s next pass attempt was intercepted at the Tech 25. The Jackets’ defense responded with a sack to force a punt, but after a few exchanged three-and-out series, Washington was intercepted again at the Tech 38.

Georgia would capitalize this time, with Murray hitting his fourth and final passing touchdown of the day on a six-play drive. The Bulldogs’ lead was extended to 31-10 and essentially put the game out of reach for the Jackets.

Washington led the team on a slow-paced 13-play, 36-yard drive that ended with the Jackets failing to convert a fourth down and giving Georgia the ball at their own 44.

“I think we just shot ourselves in the foot a lot. They switched up some looks and you have to give them credit, they didn’t sit back and stay in one scheme. They brought some blitzes and different things. For most of the game we felt like we could move the ball on them we just would always stalemate. Missed assignments, missed blocks. Those things killed us. We can’t get in second and long, third and long because we’re not built for that. We just didn’t execute enough,” Jones said.

The Bulldogs drove to the Tech 34, hitting a 15-yard pass along the way, but was unable to convert a 52-yard field goal attempt on fourth down.

Washington’s struggles in the third quarter led to redshirt freshman quarterback Synjyn Days entering the game to try to spark some momentum. After converting a third down, Days hit junior wide receiver Stephen Hill on a 36-yard completion to the UGA 17. Two plays later, junior A-back Orwin Smith punched in a 16-yard touchdown set the final score at 31-17.

Tech finished the season with an 8-4 record after the loss and finished third in the Coastal division with a 5-3 conference record. The Jackets will play in their fifteenth consecutive bowl game to end the season.