ATLANTA — At the end of a Georgia football regular season in which little went according to plan, one near-constant thing followed its recent course: The Bulldogs beat rival Georgia Tech.
But how it happened, how Dogs coach Mark Richt improved to 12-1 in the battle for the Governor's Cup with a 41-34 double-overtime win Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium, was anything but routine.
"I'm just glad we're still standing," Richt said after an 8-4 regular season that included a No. 5 preseason ranking and about as many torn ACLs to key players as it did wins.
It ended with Georgia defenders Ramik Wilson and Damian Swain both getting a hand on the ball in the end zone on Tech's final play. Unlike the 43-38 loss to Auburn, when the Bulldogs couldn't successfully knock down a final pass to preserve a win, Georgia got it done this time.
"I just waited," Richt said of watching the ball float through the air in the end zone on the final play. "I just waited until the ball hit the ground."
Then the Bulldogs were able to celebrate a hard-fought win, one that didn't seem likely after Georgia Tech jumped to a 20-0 lead.
"The mental toughness of this team is unbelievable, and we found a way to come back and win," Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "We gave up seven points in the second half and got a fourth-down stop to win the game."
Georgia Tech (7-5) had its best success early with the passing game, completing four of its first five passes for 155 yards. At halftime the Yellow Jackets had 171 passing and 108 on the ground. Tech finished with 495 yards of offense to Georgia's 437. The advantage was 249 to 45 when the Yellow Jackets went up 20 with 6:33 to play in the first half.
Georgia's Hutson Mason, making his first start at quarterback in place of the injured Aaron Murray, came alive late in the half, and that continued in the second. Mason led the Dogs on an 86-yard drive in just 1:15 at the end of the half to get Georgia on the scoreboard.
"These types of games are the games you dream about being a part of," said Mason, who finished 22-for-36 for 299 yards, with two touchdown passes and an interception.
Georgia's rally continued in the second half, and the game was tied at 27 at the end of regulation. The teams traded rushing touchdowns in the first overtime.
The Dogs got the ball first in the second extra period and running back Todd Gurley scored on the first play, a 25-yard burst up the middle that Tech didn't come close to stopping. Gurley carried the ball all three times in the first OT as well, scoring on a 6-yard run.
"I just had to do what I had to do," said Gurley, who finished with 122 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. "I was able to break one."
After the Gurley score that put Georgia in front 41-34, it was the defense's turn. Tech gained 9 yards on first down and 5 on second for a first down at the 11. Two plays later it was third-and-2 at the 3.
Tech quarterback Vad Lee pitched left to back Robert Godhigh, who immediately ran into a wall of red led by Leonard Floyd. Then came fourth-and-5 at the 6 and a probable passing situation.
Lee's pass was intended for Darren Waller, but Wilson got a hand on it. The ball deflected up and seemed to hang in the air forever before Swann knocked it to the Grant Field turf.
"It was a little crazy, but everything happens for a reason," Wilson said. "Swann knocked it down after I hit it. I'm glad he was there."
Georgia also got a pivotal defensive play in the fourth quarter, when Josh Harvey-Clemons picked off a Lee pass, setting up a game-tying Marshall Morgan 32-yard field goal with 4:17 remaining.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...