ATHENS — Not one of Georgia’s active players has experienced a loss to Georgia Tech. The last Georgia loss in Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate came back in 2016, a year before Stetson Bennett arrived in Athens.
But the same cannot be said for a few Bulldogs on the Georgia coaching staff. Specifically head coach Kirby Smart, whose final home game during his playing career was a loss to the Yellow Jackets.
Smart thought about sharing some old videos of the rivalry to try and motivate his team. But the Georgia coach ultimately decided against it.
“They see us, and they’re like, ‘Oh, they’re dinosaurs.’ They don’t look at it as relevant,” Smart said. “What’s relevant to them is that probability doesn’t equal reality, and you can’t go off probability. These games are decided on the grass, not on paper. If we learned anything last week, it’s that probability doesn’t equal reality. You have to go out and play good.”
Georgia players do still have strong feelings about this rivalry, especially for those who greaw up in the state. Senior safety Chris Smith has friends on both sides of the rivalry.
With Saturday likely being Smith’s final home game in a Georgia uniform, he’s going to make sure he does everything he can that he doesn’t suffer the same fate as Smart.
“It is important to me because it is important to the people that back me while I am out there on the field,” Smith said. “I want to be able to win for myself, the seniors, the rest of my teammates and the coaches. Especially Coach (Kirby) Smart, I know what this means to him. I just want to figure out the regular season undefeated.”
How Georgia football looks to slow Georgia Tech defense
North Carolina entered last week as one of the top offenses in the sport, led by a Heisman Trophy candidate in Drake Maye. But after racing out to a 17-0 lead, North Carolina was held scoreless in the second half.
The aggressive Georgia Tech defense caused major problems for Maye. The Yellow Jackets have done an excellent job of forcing turnovers, as they rank seventh in the country with 23 forced turnovers.
“They cause havoc. They stunt and move people,” Smart said. “They fire people. They blitz people, and they cause turnovers. They’re bought in. They play really hard. Credit to Coach Thacker and what he believes in, but they’re playing really hard. They’re athletic and move around a lot. They do a good job.”
All week, Smart has credited Georgia Tech with how physical it has played under interim coach Brent Key. He was a former offensive lineman at Georgia Tech and also spent time as the offensive line coach at Alabama.
Georgia knows it will not only need to meet Georgia Tech’s level of physicality but exceed it. The Bulldogs are coming off a physical game against Kentucky where the Wildcats were able to find some success in stuffing Georgia in short-yardage situations.
“You just have to be able to match their energy and play to the best of your ability,” Georgia football offensive tackle Broderick Jones said. “You have to cut out on the mental errors and play football. You don’t want to overthink it too much. When you start overthinking, things are bound to go wrong.”
Kirby Smart explains what he loves about his job
Between impending coaching changes, the transfer portal, the early signing period, the SEC championship and possibly the College Football Playoff, December figures to be a busy and stressful month for Smart.
Smart is well compensated for the job he does at Georgia, but money is not why Smart does what he continues to coach football. Nor is it for the glory of leading his alma mater.
For Smart, he loves being the head coach at Georgia because of the bond he gets to build with his players. It’s why Saturday’s senior day figures to be a special afternoon for Smart and the Georgia football program.
“I love the opportunity go from being a freshman that doesn’t know what he is going like Lewis Cine to a first-round pick,” Smart said. “An opportunity for a guy like James Cook who gave everything he had to this university to go and become an NFL player. An opportunity for a walk-on like Dan Jackson to come here and live his dream and go play for UGA. That’s why I do what I do, not really anything else.”
Related: Georgia football senior day demonstrates just how much rosters will change in coming weeks: ‘It’s a jigsaw puzzle’
Smart is not yet sure of the final count of seniors who will be participating in festivities on Saturday, with the guess being between 20 and 25.
Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech is set for a 12 p.m. ET start, with ESPN broadcasting the game.