Mark Bradley looks back at the last quarter century of Georgia-Georgia Tech football and wistfully acknowledges that it hasn’t been as promising for the Jackets as he once foresaw.
While Georgia remains the biggest game of every year for the Jackets, Tech is the biggest game for the Bulldogs only those years when Georgia fans are afraid their team will lose. Only a couple of times since Mark Richt arrived and George O’Leary left have Bulldog backers had cause to fret — in 2006, when Tech won the ACC Coastal and Georgia had four games, and again in 2009, when the Jackets were ranked No. 7 and the Bulldogs were 7-4.
Tech’s 2006 loss in Athens was the beginning of the end for Chan Gailey. (The wretched 9-6 flop the next week against Wake Forest in the ACC championship game hastened the flow.) It marked Gailey’s fifth consecutive loss to Georgia; on Nov. 26, 2007, two days after Loss No. 6, he was fired.
Paul Johnson arrived from Navy talking big and, sure enough, he beat the hated Mutts in his first try. A Georgia team that began 2008 ranked No. 1 led Tech 28-12 at the half. Seven minutes and five seconds into the third quarter, the Jackets led 35-28. (This astonishing surge came without benefit of the forward pass; Tech’s one completion of the rainy day came on its first snap.)
And Tech was even better in 2009. For 364 days, a rivalry gone cold saw Georgia fans get all hot and bothered. Those folks might deny it now, but back then Bulldog Nation lived in fear of what Tech and Johnson might become.
Oh, yes. We lived in fear of a new era, Dawgnation. And what was the result? “We run this state.”
It’s been all downhill since then for Bradley.
When a rivalry gets skewed, we start believing the dominant side will lose only after it has actually lost. I’m convinced Tech will stand a very good chance against Florida State, unbeaten over two calendar years and the reigning national champion, in Charlotte on Dec. 6, but I have a hard time thinking the Jackets can beat a Georgia team that will be playing without Todd Gurley and was, only this month, overwhelmed by Florida, which has since fired its coach.
If you’d never seen a Tech-Georgia game in person, that wouldn’t make much sense. But I’ve seen 25.
Here’s my theory for the last thirteen years. It’s not about Dawgnation’s fear. Or Bradley’s (failed) hope that Paul Johnson’s genius would turn the series after the 2008 game. It’s something simpler that all that: Mark Richt wants to win this game more than Paul Johnson does. As long as that’s the case, well, Georgia may not win 12 of every 13 games played, but the Dawgs will win a damned sight more than the Jackets ever will. I’m okay with that.