ATLANTA - The earth settled back into its proper orbit around the sun, at least from a Georgia perspective after the Bulldogs stunned 7th-ranked Georgia Tech Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium, 30-24.
"This is more like it," Georgia coach Mark Richt said "It's a great victory. Anytime you beat your instate rival it's huge. Anytime you beat a Top-10 team it's huge. It certainly ranks up there pretty high."
Not many saw this one coming.
Virtually all the so-called experts predicted the Yellow Jackets (10-2) would roll with relative ease and topple Georgia for the second straight time.
It wasn't to be.
The Bulldogs (7-5) beat Georgia Tech at its own game, outrushing Paul Johnson's squad 339-205, and not only avenged last year's defeat, but improved the Bulldogs' chances of perhaps getting back into the running for the Music City or Chick-fil-A bowls.
"I don't think anybody gave us a chance anywhere," said kicker Blair Walsh, who tacked on three more field goals in the victory. "This was our rival, and after what they did to us on our field last year - this was a big win."
Credit Georgia's potent run game for that.
The Yellow Jackets had absolutely no answer for Bulldog backs Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, who each set career highs with 183 and 166 yards, respectively.
King scored on runs of 6 and 75 yards as Georgia enjoyed so much success on the ground that quarterback Joe Cox only had to attempt 14 passes, completing 8 for 76 yards and one touchdown, a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Mike Moore.
"No, I didn't see us having this kind of success on the ground," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "It's just a credit to our guys coming out with the attitude to win the ball game. We talked about playing hard every snap, the offensive line did a great job, Joe did a great job getting us to the right run checks and the backs, they just made great runs, breaking tackles and running hard."
However, it was the defense which made the winning stand.
After Walsh missed a 55-yard field goal with three minutes left, the maligned Bulldog defense bowed its collective neck, eventually forcing four straight incomplete passes to preserve the win.
"It was on us, that's how we wanted it," safety Reshad Jones said. "We got the job done. I can't tell you how great this feels."
Georgia led 17-3 at the half but Tech wasted little time after taking the third-quarter kickoff to score its first touchdown of the game. The Yellow Jackets took advantage of single coverage by 5-foot-1, 177-pound Vance Cuff, who could not contain 6-3, 230-pound Demaryius Thomas who shoved aside the Bulldog corner and raced 76 yards for the scoring bringing Tech within 17-10.
But before you could blink an eye, the Bulldogs answered, getting a 75-yard run from King right up the middle to push the Georgia margin back to 14.
On Tech's next possession, it appeared that the Bulldogs had forced a Yellow Jacket punt, but on fourth-and-9 from the Bulldog 44, Johnson decided to go for the first down.
The move paid off as Nesbitt hit Thomas for a 16-yard gain before Jonathan Dwyer rumbled in from 5-yards out to draw back within seven.
Walsh's second field goal of the night, a 38-yarder with 2:33 to play in the third, extended Georgia's lead to 27-17.
On Tech's next possession, the Bulldog got the kind of break that's seemingly eluded the team all year.
A fumble by Josh Nesbitt was recovered by Geno Atkins at the Tech 40-yard line, just the second such recovery for Georgia all year.
However, the Bulldogs could not punch the ball in for the needed touchdown, instead settling for Walsh's third field goal, a 42-yarder to push the margin to 30-17.
Georgia Tech closed within 30-24 with 7:31 left on a 1-yard run by Nesbitt but the Yellow Jackets would get no closer, despite getting one final opportunity after Walsh missed his 55-yard attempt.
"We needed to finish," said Richt, who gathered the entire team up on the sideline before the fourth quarter began. "I just wanted to keep the fire stoked up as much as possible and keep encouraging them to do the things that we've been talking about all week."
The first half could not have gone any better from the Bulldogs' perspective.
After taking the opening kickoff, Georgia drove 74 yards on 10 plays, capped by a 7-yard run by King with 9:29 in the first.
In fact, all 10 plays by the Bulldogs were via the run, with Ealey's 35-yard run to the 2 setting up King's score.
Meanwhile, Georgia's much-maligned defense played was up to the challenge as well.
The Yellow Jackets took the ensuing kickoff and advanced to the Georgia 15, but failed to score after Scott Blair's 37-yard field goal was wide left.
Georgia fumbled the ball back to Tech the next time it got the ball but the Yellow Jackets were only able to settle for a 42-yard field goal by Blair early in the second.
But that wasn't Tech's biggest concern.
Earlier during the drive, the Yellow Jackets lost Nesbitt to an ankle injury, although the junior did come back later in the quarter.
By the time he did, however, Georgia was up 17-3 after Cox hit Moore with a 14-yard pass with 4:08 to go in the half.
Georgia Tech would try a desperation pass as the horn sounded, but Nesbitt's throw went out the back of the end zone.
The Bulldogs dominated the first-half statistics.
Georgia Tech came in averaging 343 yards rushing its last seven games, but only managed 80 the first two quarters against the Bulldogs, who ran for 204 on 26 carries. Ealey led the with 139 first-half yards on 12 carries, followed by King with 13 rushes for 66.
Georgia will now wait to learn its bowl destination, which is expected to be announced next Sunday.
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