Posted: Monday November 28, 2005 5:28PM; Updated: Monday November 28, 2005 5:47PM
With the already charged match-up spectacularly Southern Fried this year, we rousted Steve from the back of his car and filed into the bleachers at Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium (though I still call it Grant Field) as darkness fell. Since I attended with a group of Tech-bred friends, I'd promised them I wouldn't be overly vocal during the game. That pledge lasted about five minutes. We were on our feet for the opening kick and sat for maybe a combined 10 minutes the entire night. The bands were playing, everyone was stomping and screaming, whipping around the complementary Tech shakers. Even Braves phenom Jeff Francoeur, expertly blending in with a full beard a few seats down from us, seemed to be enjoying himself. It was probably the most raucous game I've attended this year, right up there with that Pistons/Spurs double-overtime Game 5.
You know how during pretty much any football game, one of the announcers will say that special teams are the key? They actually were Saturday night. UGA coach Mark Richt is almost obsessively committed to playing for field position, and his play calling has been so conservative the offense should be called "The Right Wing." Though Richt repeatedly called for running plays with little gain on first down, Georgia kept Tech away from the goal line and then won the special-teams battle with a key punt return late in the fourth quarter. After setting it up for what felt like weeks, they finally called a play-fake and Georgia QB DJ Shockley looped a perfect pass into the end zone for a late 14-7 lead.
Minutes later, after Tech QB Reggie Ball broke off a terrific scramble and a Georgia safety clotheslined a Tech receiver for pass interference, Tech set up at Georgia's 11-yard line. I haven't watched a ton of Tech football this season, but I knew that Tech's best offensive player is 6-foot-4 receiver Calvin Johnson, who's like a poor man's Randy Moss. Even my friend Steve, who was completely passed out five hours earlier, quickly noted that Tech should run four straight fades to Johnson.
What happened? On first down, Ball tried to squeeze a ball to the short side to receiver Demarius Bilbo, a converted QB, against starting UGA corner Tim Jennings, who jumped the route, picked the pass and salted away the game. Whether Gailey made that call or Ball missed a read, fact is, Tech only got the ball in Johnson's hands twice the entire game. One of them was their lone touchdown. You figure out where the ball should have gone with the game on the line.
We all finally sat down, UGA fans uttering thanks under our breath, Tech fans quietly cursing. My voice was completely gone, my hands red and sore from four hours of clapping. I was pretty sure Georgia was going to win. I just didn't know how tough it would be. Maybe Tech isn't supposed to contend every season, but nobody told their players.
As I walked out of the stadium, simply looking to enjoy a tough win against one of our biggest rivals, my Sidekick pinged. I flipped it open and found an e-mail from my friend Arthur, an LSU fan. Georgia and LSU face off in Atlanta this weekend for the SEC Championship. "Tiger Bait...Tiger Bait...," his letter taunted.