When most opposing defensive coaches looked at Stanford this season, they saw an offense that could run or pass with equal skill, a punishing line and a unit that finished in the top 10 nationally in yards (451.G) and points (37.1) per game. When Georgia Tech's staff watched tape of the Cardinal in preparation for the Seattle Bowl, it saw an offense that wasn't as athletic as the Yellow Jackets' defense. To increase that advantage, defensive coordinator Ted Roof moved All-ACC end Greg Gathers to tackle and linebacker Daryl Smith to end, and installed a variety of line stunts.
The results were immediate. In the first quarter of Georgia Tech's 24-14 victory, the Yellow Jackets stopped Stanford three times from their one-yard line, with Smith stuffing tailback Kerry Carter on fourth down. The Cardinal was not only held to a season-low 125 rushing yards but also didn't score a rushing touchdown for the first time this season. "We had four sacks, and we should have had nine," defensive ends coach Lance Thompson said. "We kept watching tape of the Stanford offense and telling our kids, 'You're better players than the ones they've played.' That was our best defensive game all year."
For the second time this season coach Mark Richt cost Georgia a shot at victory by mismanaging the clock late in a game, illustrating the difficulty a first-year coach can have in attempting to call the offensive plays and manage the clock. While trailing Auburn 24-17 on Nov. 10, the Bulldogs had first-and-goal at the Tigers' one with 16 second to go and no timeouts. Instead of first trying a pass, Richt called for tailback Jasper Sanks to run into the line. Sanks was stuffed, and Georgia didn't get off another play. While trailing Boston College 20-16 in the Music City Bowl and facing fourth-and-12 at the Boston College 48 with 1:32 to play and two timeouts, Richt elected to punt. He believed that Georgia could get the ball back near mid-field with about 40 seconds left. Instead, Boston College ran three plays and more than a minute off the clock, and the Bulldogs took over near midfield with only :14 remaining. Georgia ran only two plays before time ran out.
Maybe Richt should follow the lead of Maryland first-year coach Ralph Friedgen, who, despite having established himself as a gifted play-caller while offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, let an assistant call the plays.