Nov. 26, 2011
ATLANTA (AP) – From the first snap, the biggest plays just didn’t fall for Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech, best known for its option running game, tried to surprise Georgia with a trick play when receiver Tyler Melton took the ball on a reverse, stopped and threw deep for running back Embry Peeples. Melton’s pass floated and fell incomplete.
It was only the first missed opportunity for No. 25 Georgia Tech in Saturday’s 31-17 loss to No. 13 Georgia.
Johnson’s Yellow Jackets couldn’t stay close in losing the state bragging rights for the third straight year and the 10th time in the past 11 years.
“We’re tired of being the little brothers in the state,” linebacker Julian Burnett said.
Another telling sequence came later in the first half when Johnson called a timeout just before Georgia’s Blair Walsh was about to try a 41-yard field goal. Johnson called timeout only to see Walsh miss the attempt after a high snap.
Thanks to Johnson’s timeout, Walsh had another chance, and this time he made the kick to give the Bulldogs a 17-10 lead.
“It just seems like sometimes that’s the way it goes,” Johnson said. “There is nothing you can do about it. Sometimes it just goes that way.”
Added Johnson: “Trust me, if I’d have known they would have a bad snap, I wouldn’t have called timeout.”
Georgia’s second chance for the field goal looked big when the game was still close in the second quarter. Johnson would have been second-guessed if the Bulldogs had won by only three points. Instead, Georgia led by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Johnson won his first game in the rivalry in 2008, but has lost three straight to Mark Richt’s Bulldogs.
“It hurts every time,” Johnson said. “If you’re a competitor and you lose, it hurts. I hurt for myself but I also hurt for the kids because they wanted to win the game badly. It hurts that you can’t find a way to do it.”
Georgia (10-2) scored 17 straight points to lead 31-10 before Georgia Tech (8-4) scored its only points of the second half on Orwin Smith’s 16-yard run with 6:32 remaining.
Georgia Tech’s other touchdown came on David Sims’ 5-yard run in the second quarter.
Aaron Murray threw four touchdown passes for Georgia, which will play top-ranked LSU in next week’s Southeastern Conference championship game in the Georgia Dome.
Murray said the Bulldogs were careful to put the SEC championship game aside until taking care of the state rivalry game.
“A lot of people were worried we were going to overlook it,” Murray said. “It’s too big of a game for us to overlook.”
The Bulldogs have won 10 straight after a 0-2 start.
Johnson said a key was his defense’s inability to reach Murray, who was sacked only once.
“I think they did a nice job protecting the quarterback,” Johnson said. “We didn’t get to him too much. … You have to give them credit for that. The bottom line is they made plays when they had to.”
Murray extended his school record for touchdown passes in a season to 32, hooking up with Michael Bennett and Chris Conley in the first half, and Tavarres King and Aron White in the third quarter.
Georgia Tech rushed for 243 yards, but just 79 after halftime.
Georgia won without freshman star tailback Isaiah Crowell, who was in uniform but didn’t play because of a left ankle injury.
The Bulldogs improvised. Defensive backs Branden Smith and Brandon Boykin both lined up in the backfield, with Smith getting five carries. Alexander Ogletree broke off a key 21-yard gain on the first carry by a Georgia fullback this season. Receiver Malcolm Mitchell had a 20-yard run.
Murray carried most of the load. The third-year sophomore overcame an early interception – when he was hit on the elbow as he threw – to complete 19 of 29 passes for 252 yards.
Murray got off to an ominous start. On Georgia’s first possession, he was hammered as he threw by linebacker Steve Sylvester, the ball fluttering into the arms of Louis Young for the interception.