ATLANTA — As the game neared an end, Jordan Jenkins and Jake Ganus mentioned to each other that their Georgia defense was on the verge of something that “hadn’t been done in awhile”: Shutting out Georgia Tech on its home field.
“Don’t count your eggs till they hatch. I guess that saying holds true,” Jenkins said later. “But I’m still proud of the way we whupped on them today.”
It was another standout performance for Georgia’s defense, which held Georgia Tech to one late touchdown and 276 total yards. Once again, the defense carried the day for the Bulldogs, who have allowed just three touchdowns and three field goals over the past four games.
“It took a little while,” said defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. “We knew we were gonna be young and inexperienced, then we had little setbacks when guys got injuries in fall camp. And any time you miss practice you ain’t getting better. … That’s just part of football. Hopefully we’ve kinda developed some depth where we can plug some guys in, because I think in the back seven most of them are coming back, except for (senior inside linebacker) Jake Ganus.”
Georgia concentrated on stopping the fullback dives up the middle. In fact Pruitt said it was the first priority, given the Yellow Jackets went up the middle heavily last year on the way to racking up 399 rushing yards on the Bulldogs.
“When we set our goals at the beginning of the week the first thing we had to do was stop the fullback,” Pruitt said. “Obviously last year we didn’t. So that was our goal this week was the first thing we’ve gotta do is stop the fullback, and our guys did a good job of that.”
That was no more evident than when James DeLoach burst up the middle on fourth-and-short in the first quarter, sacking Thomas before he had a chance to do anything.
Early in the game Georgia Tech was compensating by getting yards on the edge, using its misdirection to fool Georgia’s back seven and eight defenders. But as the middle dives were stopped the Bulldogs were able to spy and re-direct to the perimeter. The Yellow Jackets still moved the ball, racking up 17 first downs. But they were only 2-for-13 on third downs, and 1-for-2 on fourth downs.
“They’re gonna make plays on you. You’ve just gotta regroup and play the next play, and our guys have done a great job of doing that today,” Pruitt said, adding: “They’ve done a great job of that awhile now. It’s not just a day. They’ve been doing it awhile.”
Safety Dominick Sanders snuffed out Georgia Tech’s best chance to score in the first half, picking off a pass in the end zone. It came on third-and-8 and was overthrown, but Sanders at least prevented the field goal try. It looked like Sanders hid behind receivers in the secondary, looking to draw a bad throw.
“I was on the right guy but I was kinda behind him, to bait the quarterback to throw it to each receiver,” Sanders said. “So I pretty much was in the right place.”
Georgia Tech’s touchdown late in the game ended the shutout bid. But the Bulldogs appear to have still made their statement.
“I feel like we came out and pounded them from the start,” Sanders said. “I feel like we played with toughness and played aggressive. We had some mistakes and I feel like we’re gonna learn from them, and just keep working.”