Convincing Win over Tech seals SECCG Bid
AP Photo/John Bazemore
AP Photo/John Bazemore
Dawgpost.com
Posted Nov 29, 2003


ATLANTA -- There were some heart stopping moments, but Saturday ended beautifully for the Bulldog Nation.

In the final day of regular season Southeastern Conference football, the No. 5 Bulldogs posted a resounding win over their in-state rival, watched their cruelest rival suffer a heartbreaking loss and went to sleep all but assured of winning the SEC Eastern Division title.

Georgia's only active role in the action came during a 34-17 victory over Georgia Tech in front of 55,000 in Bobby Dodd Stadium. It was a fitting rivalry game in that it featured eight personal fouls.

"Anytime you beat Tech, no matter what the score is, it's always good," said Georgia quarterback David Greene, who was 16 of 22 for 235 yards and one touchdown. "Being at Georgia, it's a must win ball game."

This is the first time since 1983 and the fourth time in school history that the Bulldogs (10-2, 6-2 SEC) have won 10 games in back-to-back seasons. More importantly, Georgia will get a chance to defend its conference title barring an implosion of the BCS rankings.

The Bulldogs finish the regular season tied with Tennessee and Florida for the division lead but will win the tiebreaker, which is based on BCS ranking. The final BCS rankings will be released Sunday.

Georgia's fate wasn't assured until hours after it beat the Jackets when Buford native and former Georgia commitment P.K. Sam caught a 52-yard touchdown pass with 55 seconds left to lift Florida State over Florida 38-34. The Gators, who have beaten Georgia 13 of the last 14 years, could have won the SEC East tiebreaker with a win over the Seminoles.

The Bulldogs were on a bus trip back to Athens when they heard the score. Head coach Mark Richt was in the WSB studios in Atlanta filming his weekly coach's show.

"I saw Florida State's touchdown drive," he said. "I pretty much believe we were in regardless, but that really solidifies it."

Georgia will play LSU, which beat the Bulldogs 17-10 on Sept. 20 in Baton Rouge, La., at 8 p.m. Saturday in Georgia Dome.

"How many times you do get to avenge yourself?" senior defensive tackle Ken Veal asked. "I'm excited to go back and show (LSU) we're the better team.

Florida State wasn't the only team that had to come through for Georgia. Tennessee also had to win. The Volunteers trailed Kentucky 7-3 at halftime, a score that didn't escape notice in the Bulldogs' halftime locker room, but they came back to win 20-7. That score was flashed on the Grant Field scoreboard in the fourth quarter.

"I tried not to pay any attention because I had a game to play, but I ain't going to lie, I looked up there," Veal said.

The Yellow Jackets' loss had little impact on the future of their season. They are expected to learn today whether they will end the season in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, on Jan. 3 or the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 27.

The win was Georgia's third straight and 10th in the last 13 years against the Jackets (6-6).

"It means a lot to say we are back on top of the state," Veal said.

Georgia led 20-3 after the first half, and Georgia Tech's comeback chances took a fatal hit when quarterback Reggie Ball came out of the halftime locker room without his shoulder pads due to a concussion. Ball, who waged a verbal battle with several Bulldogs throughout the first half, accounted for 129 of the Yellow Jackets' 190 first half yards (80 passing, 49 rushing).

Ball's father, Reggie Ball Sr., said his son was pulled because he couldn't remember several sequences of the game.

Jackets senior A.J. Suggs took his first snap of the season on the Jackets' final drive of the first half. On Georgia Tech's first three series of the second half, Suggs threw one touchdown and two interceptions, one to Thomas Davis and one to Bruce Thornton. The end result was a 27-10 Georgia lead going into the fourth quarter.

"Reggie gives us a little extra with his mobility and his ability to run the ball," said Jacket linebacker Keyaron Fox, who led Tech with 12 tackles. "With A.J. coming in, you really can't expect him to have the same momentum coming in the last game of the season.

Georgia went up 27-3 with 10:46 left in third quarter on a 1-yard run by fullback Jeremy Thomas that came four plays after Davis' interception. Thomas had an unusually prolific day with a team-high five catches for 51 yards and three carries for 15 yards.

Overall, Georgia Tech turned the ball over four times and surrendered a blocked punt to the Bulldogs.

"I think the turnovers were the biggest story of the game," Richt said. "That really helped us."

The Bulldogs only got seven points off their four turnovers but the plays did a better job of stopping the Yellow Jackets than Georgia's defense could. Georgia Tech finished with 401 yards, 20 first downs and 79 offensive plays, all season highs against the Bulldog defense.

Georgia Tech's offensive success was the reason for the Bulldogs' five personal fouls, defensive end David Pollack said.

"I think defensively we were kind of upset because they were getting some yardage on us," he said. "We don't like it when people drive the ball on us. We were mad at each other. We were just mad."

Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder credited Tech's big day to a good plan by the Yellow Jackets and assignment miscues by the Bulldogs.

"I thought we were sluggish today," he said. "We were not moving around like we normally do, but I like how we persevered."

The entire Georgia team has persevered, from an offseason that included arrests, suspensions and a ring-selling incident through a season in which 39 players have missed time to injury.

"I'm a little bit surprised we are where we are right now considering who we lost and what we lost to injury," Richt said.


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