ATHENS – It was second down, and Georgia was clinging to a lead. It needed to run time off the clock. It also needed a first down. Those intertwining goals led to the fateful play where it all went so wrong.
Instead of calling a run play, the Bulldogs tried what they thought would be a high-percentage pass: A short pass to the left side to receiver Terry Godwin, who two plays earlier had hauled in a 6-yard pass from Jacob Eason to convert on third-and-3.
“The thinking was they were loading the box, they were putting everybody in there,” head coach Kirby Smart said later of Georgia Tech, “And they had done that a couple plays in a row, and we were really struggling to run it there a couple times, and thought it was a good…”
Smart smiled, somewhat incredulously, recalling the play.
“I mean it’s a 2-yard guy out in the flat, a simple play call,” Smart said. “I don’t know if he threw a little bit behind him, I’m not exactly sure what happened. But what happened, happened.”
Eason’s pass tipped off Godwin’s outstretched fingers. Georgia Tech cornerback Lance Austin grabbed it as he was hitting the ground at Georgia’s 46.
Nine plays later, the Yellow Jackets would score and go ahead, 28-27, with 30 seconds left. Eason’s final pass of the game, a Hail Mary about 15 yards short of the end zone, was also intercepted.
Georgia’s offense also stumbled when it had an earlier chance to essentially put the game away.
The defense had just made a big fourth-down stop to give Georgia’s offense the ball at midfield with 11:58 left. Up until then, the Bulldogs had been churning out yardage, racking up 368 total yards and averaging 6.7 yards per play.
“That was my whole thought: We keep moving the ball, we keep going down the field as slow as possible, we run the clock, we do our job the best way possible, we come out with the win,” Georgia junior Isaiah McKenzie said. “Unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
Georgia ran the ball with Nick Chubb on first and second down, but he only totaled five yards. Then receiver Javon Wims wasa called for a false start, leading to an obvious passing situation. Eason tried to find Sony Michel on a short pass, but it fell incomplete.
Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who was calling plays from the press box for a fourth straight game, is not available to the media, per team policy.
Michel was asked after the game about being up two scores and having possession.
“You’ve got to keep your foot on the gas,” Michel said. “You’ve got to come out here and play hard no matter what. We try to not look at the scoreboard because, you know, the scoreboard can be a distraction. You’ve just got to keep playing, keep fighting.”
Did they let up?
“No, I thought we went out and played hard,” Michel said. “We just didn’t make the plays we needed to make.”