Dawgs Get Set for Biggest Rival - Tech

ATHENS – Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran has been a Bulldogs fan since he started playing football nearly a decade ago, but he said he never paid much attention to the annual rivalry game with Georgia Tech.

In fact, Curran said, he can't really remember the last time Georgia lost to its in-state rival.

"I knew the rivalry was there," Curran said. "I had a couple friends who were Georgia Tech fans, and they were always obnoxious, but that's what I remember most about Tech."

Curran is a part of a growing breed of Bulldogs fans who have only vague recollections of the last time Tech triumphed over Georgia, and therefore no longer count the Yellow Jackets as their team's biggest rival.

Since head coach Mark Richt took over at Georgia prior to the 2001 season, the Bulldogs have no lost to their neighbors from The Flats.

Even prior to Richt's arrival, Georgia had dominated the series, which began in 1893. Tech won three straight games from 1998 through 2000, but those were the Yellow Jackets only wins since 1990 against the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, conference rivalries against Florida, Tennessee and Auburn have become more of a focal point for a younger generation of Georgia fans who barely recall the Yellow Jackets' late-‘90s winning streak, let alone Tech's dominance in the 1950s.

"I'm always hearing from fans that want this game first and foremost," Richt said.

"Usually it's a different generation – maybe a little bit older generation that's more consumed with it, which I can understand why."

This year's meeting, however, has put the Tech rivalry back into the consciousness of many Bulldogs fans. First-year Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson has reinvigorated the Tech offense with a quirky triple-option set, and in turn, has reinvigorated the competitiveness with his cross-state rival.

"I'm sure that he's come in and this is probably one his emphasis games this year," Georgia tackle Clint Boling said. "I'm sure he wants to win and get Tech on the right path, but we've just got to keep doing what we're able to do and I think we'll be alright."

While Richt said he doesn't believe the winner of the annual showdown gets a leg up in recruiting, he said the pride and bragging rights that come with a victory outweigh the lack of impact on conference standings or landing top prospects.

This year, however, even more is on the line for both teams.

Tech has a chance to advance to the ACC championship game and turn around its recent fortunes against the Bulldogs. Georgia has already missed its chance to win its conference, but the lure of a top bowl game and another 10-win season provide plenty of motivation.

More importantly, Georgia's seniors will be playing in their final home game at Sanford Stadium, and none want to be remembered as the first senior class to lose to Tech in eight years.

"It's something that's bragging rights," wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said, "and the older you get, when you become a senior, that's bragging rights for life."

While many of Georgia's stars, including Massaquoi, running back Knowshon Moreno and quarterback Matthew Stafford, come from out of state, they quickly learn just how important it is to retain those bragging rights each season.

Massaquoi, who grew up in Charlotte, compared the animosity between fans to the North Carolina-Duke rivalry in basketball. Stafford said his initiation into the rivalry was one of the highlights of his career.

"I was fortunate enough my true freshman year to come in and be part of one of the better games in this series," Stafford said. "I got a chance to make a play to win that game, and I'll always remember that. It was great last year, too, and hopefully we'll get another win."

In the end, that new tradition of winning is what provides the biggest spark for the Bulldogs. Winning feels pretty good, Boling said, and no one wants to find out what the alternative feels like.

"We don't know what it's like to lose to them, and we don't want to find out either," Boling said. "If we do lose, we'll find out how big a rivalry it is and how bad it really hurts."

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