Jackets Fall To Georgia, 51-7
Yellow Jackets finish regular season 7-5 and await bowl bid.
Nov. 30, 2002
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer
ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia will play for the Southeastern Conference championship next weekend. And who knows, the Bulldogs might just get a shot at the biggest game of all.
The fifth-ranked Bulldogs sure played like champions Saturday, building a 34-0 halftime lead against Georgia Tech and cruising to a 51-7 victory - Georgia's most lopsided win in the series, which began in 1893. The Bulldogs won 47-8 in 1968.
While blowing out the Yellow Jackets, Georgia (11-1) learned that No. 3 Oklahoma had lost to Oklahoma State 38-28, eliminating another Fiesta Bowl contender.
Now, the Bulldogs must hope No. 1 Miami loses to Virginia Tech next Saturday.
"We'll be rooting for the Hokies, that's for sure," quarterback David Greene said. "But we've got to take care of our business or it doesn't matter."
For Georgia, the next order of business is the SEC championship game against Arkansas. The Bulldogs will be trying to win their first conference title since 1982.
"We all know we haven't won a championship in 20 years," said coach Mark Richt, whose team ensured its first 11-win season since 1982. "That's enough motivation right there."
Georgia can expect to move up to third place when the new BCS standings are released Monday. No. 2 Ohio State already has completed a perfect regular season, but the other spot will be wide open if Virginia Tech upsets the Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl.
"We all hope to have a shot at playing for the national championship," Richt said. "The only way we can have a shot is to win next week. But it's certainly in the back of our mind. We know there's a chance we can go to the Fiesta Bowl."
Georgia Tech (7-5) doesn't have to worry about such lofty goals after enduring its worst defeat since a 49-3 rout by Florida State in 1996. The Yellow Jackets are eligible for their sixth straight bowl appearance, but they'll probably have to settle for a return trip to Seattle Bowl.
"It was a very poorly played game in all phases by our football team," said Tech's first-year coach, Chan Gailey. "Obviously, I didn't get these guys ready to play."
Musa Smith ran for 121 yards and became the first Georgia back since Garrison Hearst in 1992 to reach 1,000 yards in a season.
Greene completed 10 of 14 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown. Senior fullback J.T. Wall, normally a blocker, added a couple of TD runs.
"I wasn't expecting this," Greene said. "We jumped on them early and kept them on their heels all day long. We never let them get any rhythm."
Even before the game started, the Bulldogs were inspired by the return of David Jacobs for senior day.
Jacobs was a defensive lineman for the Bulldogs when a near-fatal stroke ended his playing career late last season. He still has weakness on his right side, but he donned his No. 99 uniform and trotted onto the field to a thunderous ovation after all the other seniors had been introduced.
"It felt like a celebration," Jacobs said afterward, holding his pads but still wearing his jersey. "This is just motivating me to get better every day."
Jacobs watched from the sideline as Georgia marched right down the field on its first possession. Smith started the drive with a 22-yard run, then finished it off by sweeping in from the 1.
Billy Bennett kicked a 46-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Then things really got ugly for Georgia Tech.
D.J. Shockley, Georgia's backup quarterback, scored on an 8-yard run to make it 17-0. Greene returned on the next possession and completed two straight long passes to push the lead to 24-0.
The first was a 31-yarder to Terrence Edwards, who snatched the ball away from Jeremy Muyres as the Tech defensive back was poised to make an interception. Greene followed with a 49-yard touchdown pass to Fred Gibson, who made the catch when cornerback Marvious Hester turned the wrong way on a slightly underthrown ball.
Edwards, who was supposed to be out until at least the SEC championship because of a separated shoulder, returned a week early and made two catches for 48 yards.
A 26-yard punt return by Sean Jones and another 22-yard run by Smith set up Bennett's second field goal, a 30-yarder that made it 27-0.
Georgia got the ball right back when P.J. Daniels fumbled a short kickoff. Wall rumbled into the end zone on an 18-yard run, dragging Muyres on his back the last few steps.
In the first half, the Yellow Jackets fumbled twice on kickoff returns, and A.J. Suggs threw an interception. Georgia Tech's only scoring threat was a 49-yard field-goal attempt by Luke Manget; appropriately, it was blocked by Boss Bailey.
Georgia fans began singing "Hey, hey, hey, goodbye!" with five minutes left in the third quarter. By then, the small sections of gold-clad Georgia Tech fans were mostly empty.
Tyson Browning added a 19-yard scoring run for Georgia with about four minutes remaining, giving the Bulldogs their most points ever against the Yellow Jackets. Twice before, Georgia had scored 48 points.
"In every facet of the game," Richt said, "that was about as good as we can play."