Posted: 5:34 pm Saturday, November 25th, 2017
By Jay Black
ATLANTA – The last period of practice every Monday all season long was the Tech period.
It had nothing to do with the current game, but everything to do with the last one.
Kirby Smart was making sure what happened last year would not happen again.
“Oh my God,” said linebacker Natrez Patrick, when asked about getting ready for the Jackets triple option. “Just those cut blocks and the way you have to grind through practice. It’s a struggle.”
This coming from the coach who constantly preaches that every game is the same, every opponent is the same. Don’t look forward and don’t look back.
But Georgia Tech is a different beast that requires attention paid to no other opponent on the schedule.
You can say what you want to about the diminished state of this rivalry, but Smart seemed hell-bent on making sure that the Governor’s Cup was returned to its rightful place.
Remember this is the man who lost the last game he played against Georgia Tech and the first game he coached against the Jackets.
It is quite a commitment to something that might only pay off one game a season.
“The toughest thing preparing for this is knowing you aren’t going to play anything you called next week,” said Smart. “So we missed a whole week of developing for a normal offense. But that’s what you do when you play Tech.”
That’s also what you do against the in-state rival who tore up your Hedges last year. The game you must win first above all else.
It wasn’t exactly an all-in move, but I’ve talked to people who have been around this program for many decades who had never heard of it before.
Wow. Was it worth it.
Yes this is not one of Paul Johnson’s best teams, but this is one of Georgia’s best defenses and it had a point to make. After hearing about Tech every Monday, UGA made sure the Jackets and their fans weren’t heard from much on the last Saturday in November.
Georgia 38, Georgia Tech 7.
226 total yards for GT: Season Low
188 rushing yards: Season Low
4.1 yards per carry: Season Low
36 passing yards: Almost a season low (32 vs Clemson)
What more do you need to know? This is the preparation equaling the payoff.
“This was the most prepared I’ve seen Georgia to play Tech in the Paul Johnson Era,” said UGA color analyst Eric Zeier during the locker room show.
Remember, Georgia has a pretty massive game next week and Thanksgiving week can be a bit distracting. But this was total and complete focus on kicking the state’s little brother while it’s down.
Paul Johnson is the coach who always has options. Today there were none.
“I love playing against the triple option,” said linebacker extraordinaire Roquan Smith. “I embrace it.”
He sure looked like it. The All-American candidate (is there any doubt at this point?) might have played his best game in a season filled with plenty of nominees. Nine tackles, eight of them solo, and three behind the line of scrimmage (career high). He had two of those TFLs early on, announcing to Tech QB TaQuon Marshall that this would not be a fun day.
For those in white, it wasn’t.
“It was a total team effort,” said Smart. “A total organizational effort.”
That is a nod to UGA’s assistants who went far and wide asking questions about how to shut down Johnson’s game and to Georgia’s scout team who had to mimic an offense that few can replicate.
“They did a great job of creating a picture of it and everything seemed to flow during the game,” said Patrick. “If it was up to me I’d give the Governor’s Cup to the scout team.”
The scout team surely has touched that Governor’s Cup by now, but first it goes to the head man.
Kirby Smart has his first trophy that matters (unless you count that dumb helmet from the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game last year and the 2016 Liberty Bowl title, which you shouldn’t). It’s one Smart sure seemed like he wanted in a bad way.
“I’m proud of what they’ve done,” said Smart about this victory and his defense. “Now it’s on to bigger and better things.”
Yes it is. The SEC Championship game and a spot in the playoff looms.
But if those things don’t turn out the way Bulldog Nation wants, at least two things are for certain. 11-1 is much better than 7-5 and beating Georgia Tech is much more fun than not.
Georgia runs this state again. Now it must find out if it’s ready to run the SEC.
At least Smart won’t have to waste time this Monday on Georgia Tech.