Nov. 24, 2016
Andy Demetra | Inside the Chart
Everyone aspires to it. Only a few can lay claim to it.
The 111th edition of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate kicks off Saturday when Georgia Tech (7-4, 4-4 ACC) faces Georgia (7-4, 4-4 SEC) at Sanford Stadium in Athens. When toe meets leather at 12:01 p.m., a new group of Yellow Jackets will try to etch their names into the rivalry’s lore.
Yet over the last century, only a select few have had the biggest, most iconic games of their career in a win over the Bulldogs. Those players span different positions and generations, but together they form an unforgettable fraternity in Georgia Tech’s football history.
Their biggest game in the biggest game. I wanted to know what that experience felt like. So I asked four Yellow Jackets to describe it in their own words.
Harrison Butker, PK (2013-present)
Game: November 29, 2014
Feat: Kicked a 53-yard field goal at the end of regulation in a 30-24 overtime win over the ninth-ranked Bulldogs.
Roddy Jones, AB (2008-2011)
Stone Mountain, Ga.
Game: November 29, 2008
Feat: A redshirt freshman, Jones ran for 214 yards in a dramatic 45-42 win over No. 13 Georgia in Athens, the most ever by a Tech running back against the Bulldogs. His 16.5 yards per carry set a new school record.
Jerry Mays, RB (1985-1989)
Game: December 2, 1989
Feat: An under-recruited 5-8 running back, Mays rushed a school record-tying 39 times for a career-high 207 yards in his final collegiate game, a 33-22 win over Georgia in Atlanta.
John Dewberry, QB (1983-1985)
Game: December 1, 1984
Feat: Making his first start in Athens after a well-documented transfer from the University of Georgia, Dewberry threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another in a 35-18 upset victory over the No. 18 Bulldogs. Afterwards, Dewberry was credited with starting the tradition of ripping out sprigs of the Sanford Stadium hedge following a Tech victory.
(Quotes edited for clarity and brevity)
BUTKER: Growing up I was a big Tech basketball fan, so naturally I rooted for Tech football as well. I remember watching the Georgia-Georgia Tech football games growing up and seeing how close they were.
I have some family members that are Georgia fans. They told me before the game, “We hope Georgia wins. But if Tech wins, we hope it’s off a field goal.
DEWBERRY: In ’83, we played a very tight game [Georgia Tech, 3-7 at the time, lost 27-24 to No. 7 Georgia in Atlanta]. Tony Flack made about a three-fingered, one-handed interception to seal the victory for the Dawgs.
I walked in the locker room. Everybody was crying. I stepped in the middle of the thing, screaming and hollering, using words my father, who was a preacher and has passed now, wouldn’t have liked. I said, “As long as I am the quarterback, we will never lose to the Bulldogs again. All you seniors, I’m so sorry for that interception because you don’t get another chance. But please make your way to Athens next year. It will be different.”
MAYS: There was a young lady that was on the Georgia Tech basketball team. It was Wednesday of that week. We hadn’t won one game versus Georgia since I had been there [Mays was injured for the Jackets’ 20-16 home win over UGA in 1985].
She mentioned to me, “Jerry, I believe you’re going to get over 200 yards this week.” I said, “You know what, that would be nice.” But I didn’t give it a second thought after that.
DEWBERRY: I’ll never forget. John Davis and I were at breakfast. He was my center that year. He sat down and threw in my plate of eggs and grits what [Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports columnist] Furman Bisher had written.
We were on pace to set 14 offensive records that year. The caption to Furman Bisher’s column, and I’m paraphrasing now, was basically, “Tech’s high-powered offense will be stuffed by the Dawgs.” I guess I’m one of those guys — please don’t tell me what we can’t do.
[In an ironic postscript, that 1984 game inspired fellow AJC columnist Lewis Grizzard to write his famous one-sentence column: “Frankly, I don’t want to talk about it.”]
JONES: Once we knew how they were going to line up, we knew we were going to have some opportunities on the perimeter. During the game, you kind of got a sense that it could be a fun day.
MAYS: Our offensive line, the wide receivers, they all were able to get and stay on their blocks. I didn’t have to deal with a lot of linemen. I dealt with linebackers and defensive backs. Once I got past the defensive line, everything was gravy. That was in my element.
BUTKER: Georgia scores the touchdown right at the end and I was like, “Wow, man, this might come down to a field goal.” Anthony Harrell got the ball pretty close to midfield after the kickoff. Then Justin Thomas got it in field goal range and I remember hearing, “Field goal! Field goal!”
I did one warmup kick that was really bad. I usually pick a spot on the field and act like that’s where [holder Ryan Rodwell’s] finger is. I took my steps and forgot where that spot was. I over-strided completely and almost tripped over myself.
I said, “Whatever. I’ve got to go kick this.”
DEWBERRY: We had a great game plan. I understood their defense very well and their tendencies to blitz. I probably audibled about half of that game, catching them in bad situations where we could take advantage of man coverage. I played very, very well. But so did the rest of the guys.
JONES: I don’t think it was anything I did that was out of the ordinary. I know there was a long run up our sideline where I actually got caught from behind. It was the first time I had ever gotten caught from behind, so I remember that play like it was yesterday. I can’t remember what that Georgia player’s name was, but he ran a 4.3 at the combine, so it made me feel better.
MAYS: We were trying to run the clock out late in the ballgame. It was third down and about seven. They just kept giving me the ball on that “45 Slant” that we liked to run. I was able to break three or four tackles and it was my longest run of the day. I think it was about 18 or 19 yards [Ed. Note: it was a 14-yard gain]. It gave us the first down and it gave us the momentum to run the clock out.
JONES: I was the fortunate recipient of some good play calls and some good blocks. But the win for the team, I think, means more. The fact we hadn’t beaten Georgia in seven years going up there, the fact that we were down 16 at halftime and overcame that. That’s kind of the biggest thing that I’m proud of.
BUTKER: I wasn’t having that great of a season. I made that kick, so all the fans, I think, forgot about all of my misses [laughs].
DEWBERRY: I called timeout in the fourth quarter and never went to the sideline. Basically, I took timeout so I could say in the huddle, “Hey fellas, I want to thank you so much for this victory. Take a look at all the fans as they walk out of the stadium.”
Finally, I walk over and Coach Curry said, “What’s going on!? What’s going on!?”
I said, “I just took timeout to thank the guys.” “We still got a quarter of football to play!”
I said, “Coach, I used to play there. They don’t’ have enough plays in their arsenal to score 30 points in the fourth quarter.”
He was just shaking his head. “You’re crazy, Dewberry.'”
MAYS: There were other SEC schools, some ACC schools as well, even some smaller schools that thought that I was too small to play running back at the Division I level. In the back of your mind, you always want to do well against those guys. You always want to prove that they were wrong.
JONES: There was only one game that I ever went over 100 yards rushing. There was only one game where I had more than 10 carries. Only a handful where I scored more than one touchdown. And all of those things came to pass against Georgia.
DEWBERRY: John Davis and Pat Swilling were in the hedges and they were in there tearing the hedge up. I said, “Guys, you can’t be doing that. That’s their pride and joy.” They turned around and used some expletives and handed me a piece of the hedge, which I promptly got in trouble for. I never put a finger on the hedge myself.
When I went out to the 50-yard line, I wasn’t thinking. I still had it in my hand. A couple of guys who had completely white uniforms, ain’t played a play all day, tried to start a fight with me. I remember Knox Culpepper, my old suite-mate when I was playing at Georgia – a great linebacker and a good friend – came up and said, “Leave Dewberry alone. He beat us fair and square today.”
BUTKER: I did [take a piece of the hedges in 2014]. It died, unfortunately. I was trying to plant it at my house.
JONES: It’s a game that I don’t want to blow out of proportion, but it probably changed my life. I don’t think that I would have been nearly as popular amongst Tech fans had my biggest game not come against Georgia.
MAYS: It’s like I didn’t play any other games there. That’s the game that they remember. It’s just something that people love to talk about. Now that I’m older, I kind of enjoy it when I hear it.
BUTKER: To be able to play at Georgia, the SEC stadium, all that red — to shut them up a little bit and win that game was awesome. There’s a lot of Georgia Tech pride in beating Georgia. I just feel good that I could help contribute to that.
JONES: I was fortunate enough to be there in 2014 on the radio when D.J. and Harrison had their plays at the end. That’s when I said to them, “People will never, ever forget you now. It doesn’t matter what you do for the rest of your life. You’ll always go down in Tech history.”