ATHENS – Brandon Kublanow’s eyes had welled up. He stood with his hands gripped on the top of his jersey, looking ahead.
“It just hurts a lot,” Georgia’s senior center said, nodding when told it seemed he was taking this hard. “It’s tough. You always want to beat them. You want to end out on the good end. It didn’t happen.”
Across the way Lorenzo Carter, a member of the defense that played so well for most of the second half then collapsed in a 28-27 loss to Georgia Tech, was just as frustrated.
“Story of our season,” Carter said. “We come so close. We’ve been close in a lot of our games. But we’ve known it was going to be a four-quarter battle in every game.”
Then he tried to finish on a positive note.
“Kudos to my teammates, hats off to my teammates, we fought hard, I didn’t see anybody give up,” Carter said. “But they just made one more play.”
The mood inside Georgia’s locker room after the game was “quiet,” according to junior tailback Nick Chubb. That seemed reflected in the mood among players brought to address the media afterwards. They answered questions, reaching for the right thing to say after losing to an arch-rival in a game they controlled until late.
It was fair to say that most were still stunned.
“When you add it up, it’s a weird win,” Chubb said, before correcting himself. “It felt like we won in a lot of areas, stat-wise. We had some good turnovers.”
Georgia out-gained Georgia Tech, albeit not by much: 402-390. It was a wider margin through three quarters: 366-222.
It was also the among the best, if not the best, days of run blocking for Georgia’s much-criticized offensive line. Not that Kublanow was in the mood to pat himself on the back.
“We came out and were just more physical,” Kublanow said. “It just didn’t work out.”
It occurred to more than a few people that it felt a lot like the last loss to Georgia Tech, two years ago in Sanford Stadium. That became more infamous around Georgia for the squib kick call, when Georgia thought it had the game won, only to go to overtime and loss.
“That’s the haunting part. It’s eerily similar,” junior tight end Jeb Blazevich said. “It sucks just as bad, if not worse, because it’s more fresh.”
Players also gave credit to their opponent. Davin Bellamy, the junior outside linebacker, who made a first-down tackle on Georgia Tech’s goal-line series, was magnanimous.
“This is a rivalry game. I told you during the week, both teams were going to bring it,” Bellamy said. “It’s always going to be a competitive game. So even though we were shutting those guys out, Paul Johnson’s a great coach, we knew those guys were going to have something for us. I tip my hats to them. They went out there and made plays. They were the better team today.”
Blazevich went the philosophical route.
“It sucks to feel anything, especially negative emotions. It’s hard,” he said. “All I can say now is what’s done is done, I’m just proud of these guys. I think that’s the thing that’s really running it’s course right now, is how proud I am of these guys, how much I love these guys, how proud I am to be part of something bigger than myself, that they’ve made so great.
“I just hate the fact that, especially for the seniors, we sent them out this way.”
Pressed, however, Blazevich got to the nub of it.
“Forget the record, at the end of the day we lost to Tech. We’re not supposed to do that,” Blazevich said. “That’s the worst part: We sent the seniors out at home, losing to Tech.”