ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - No. 18 Georgia Tech avoided another dramatic finish against Georgia by building a big lead at halftime, then holding on for a 27-15 victory Saturday.
Led by the passing and running of George Godsey, plus a big defensive play by Darryl Smith, the Yellow Jackets (9-2) won their third straight over the No. 19 Bulldogs (7-4), which hasn't happened since 1961-63.
Georgia Tech, projected for a rebuilding year after the loss of Joe Hamilton, turned out to be a major surprise. The Peach Bowl-bound Yellow Jackets lost close games to Florida State and North Carolina State before finishing the season with a seven-game winning streak.
The Yellow Jackets led 27-3 by halftime and withstood a Georgia comeback over the final two quarters.
It was the first time since 1996 that the game wasn't decided in the final minute. Last year, Georgia Tech won 51-48 on a field goal in overtime after the officials mistakenly ruled a fumble against Georgia in the final seconds of regulation.
The Bulldogs can only consider this season a major disappointment. Coach Jim Donnan thought he had a team capable of winning the school's first Southeastern Conference championship since 1982, but losses to South Carolina and Florida dashed those hopes.
Now, the Bulldogs have to spend another year stewing on a defeat to their state rival, which plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Godsey completed 20 of 35 passes for 222 yards, virtually all of his significant work coming in the decisive first half.
Georgia Tech's first touchdown came on a run by Godsey. Faking out the Bulldogs with an option, he broke around right end for a 33-yard touchdown less than two minutes into the game.
Godsey was responsible for a more conventional TD later in the period, hooking up with Kerry Watkins for an 8-yard score. Before the quarter was over, Luke Manget kicked a 42-yard field goal to give the Yellow Jackets a 17-0 lead.
Georgia finally got on the board with Billy Bennett's 23-yard field goal, but Manget countered with a 21-yarder and Georgia Tech went to the locker room on an emotional high because of a play by Smith and Felipe Claybrooks.
Claybrooks tipped a pass by Cory Phillips at the line, Smith picked it out of the air and raced 70 yards to the end zone for a stunning interception return with just a minute left in the half.
Georgia made the score respectable, but Donnan will surely be questioned about his decision to go for a 2-point conversion after Phillips threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Damian Gary on the first possession of the second half. Phillips' pass was incomplete, leaving Georgia with a 27-9 deficit.
Phillips, who threw a staggering 62 passes and had a career-high 409 yards, tossed a 4-yard touchdown to Randy McMichael with four minutes to go in the third. Once again, the Bulldogs went for 2 and failed.
Those plays came back to haunt the Bulldogs when they faced fourth-and-9 at the Georgia Tech 10 with about 10 minutes remaining. If Georgia had kicked two extra points, they could have attempted a chip-shot field goal to get within seven points.
Instead, the Bulldogs were forced to go for the touchdown. Phillips threw behind Reggie Brown at the goal line, ending Georgia's last threat.
Phillips, starting his third straight game in place of the injured Quincy Carter, was 36 of 62. McMichael had 12 catches for 156 yards and Gary 11 for 126, but the Bulldogs managed only 26 yards rushing.
Georgia probably will have to wait until after next Saturday's SEC title game to learn its bowl fate. The Music City or Independence seem most likely.