With expectations widely favoring Georgia Tech on Saturday, it was Ealey and the rest of Georgia’s ground game that salvaged a final semblance of success from the 2009 season.
Ealey carried 20 times for 183 yards – a season high for the Bulldogs and a career high for the freshman – to spark a dominant rushing attack for Georgia in its 30-24 win over the Yellow Jackets.
For Georgia, the best defense against Georgia Tech’s high-powered triple option was a strong offense, and that’s exactly what Ealey and Caleb King provided.
Maligned for his steadfast commitment to balance throughout the season, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo called for one running play after another Saturday and Tech appeared helpless to stop it. Georgia ran the ball 41 times in the game, and quarterback Joe Cox threw just 14 passes.
Georgia’s first drive – a 10-play 74-yard march down the field – came entirely on the ground. The Bulldogs’ first 13 plays were all runs, and by halftime Cox had thrown just nine passes.
Ealey’s 33-yard scamper in the second quarter put him over the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career, and he needed just eight carries to make it happen.
King capped the opening drive with a six-yard run, but it was his 75-yard run in the third quarter that proved to be the showstopper.
Both players topped 100 yards rushing and, just one year after Tech racked up 409 yards on the ground against Georgia’s bewildered defense, it was the Bulldogs who proved to be the more physically dominant team Saturday, rumbling over, gliding through and darting past the Yellow Jackets’ defense to the tune of 339 yards rushing – the most ever under Richt.
The end result wasn’t just a potent offensive attack – although the 30 points represented the sixth time Georgia topped 30 points in a game this season – but allowed the Bulldogs to keep pace in the crucial battle for time of possession. Georgia held the ball for 30:04, but had a five-minute edge in the first half, giving its defense a much-needed break against the Yellow Jackets, who entered play leading the nation in time of possession.
It was the first 100-yard game of both Ealey’s and King’s careers, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Georgia’s running game had come alive in recent weeks, with the tailbacks accounting for 130 or more yards in each of the past six games, but last week’s second-half meltdown against Kentucky was highlighted by a sudden inability to run the ball and capped by Ealey’s misplay on a toss sweep from the 1-yard line that would have tied the game.
Against Tech, however, the Bulldogs looked every bit the dominant running team they had been when Knowshon Moreno patrolled the backfield the past two seasons. In fact, Ealey’s 183 yards were the most by a Georgia tailback since Moreno posted 196 against Troy in 2007.
More importantly, however, Ealey and King helped erase the demons of last year’s loss to the Yellow Jackets by beating them at their own game.