Nov. 30, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
At some point in Saturday’s epic, dizzying affair in Athens, Georgia Tech cornerback D.J. White assessed the whirlwind around him, and nailed it when, “I told one of my teammates, ‘We’re not in a dogfight, we’re in a Jacket fight.’ “
White would have the final say in Tech’s 30-24 win.
When he intercepted a Hutson Mason pass intended for Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, the Jackets moved into delirium. That grab, in overtime, sealed one of the wildest, greatest football games anywhere.
“Wow. Just wow,” White said. “Coach [Andy] McCollum told us in meetings last week that in games like this, somebody has got to be the hero. To be in that position, is just awesome. And for Harrison Butker to make that field goal to put us in that position was great.”
Butker’s career-long, 53-yard, game-tying field goal as time expired in regulation was one of many hero moments Saturday.
There were enough highs and lows in Sanford Stadium to last a lifetime.
The Jackets have put together a special season, and credit goes to the way they feel about each other. Even before the games began, head coach Paul Johnson, players, and even athletic director Mike Bobinski noted this.
It should be no surprise that when quarterback Justin Thomas was upset on the sidelines after his odd late turnover, White had something to say to him.
“As far as Justin, he’s had a heck of a year, and even when he was on the sideline with his head in his hands I said, ‘You’re a heck of a player, and we’re going to pull this out. We’ve got your back.’
“I have a lot of faith in my teammates. That’s something we’ve been building since January. When you’re around these guys, we’re like brothers.”
Thomas helped mightily. Soon after Georgia took the lead on a touchdown with just 18 seconds left in regulation, his scramble set up Butker’s tying kick.
The roller coaster seemed to never stop running.
Another peak came a few minutes later as Zach Laskey scored in overtime to push the Jackets on top only to be followed by a valley when the Bulldogs blocked Butker’s point-after try.
White’s pick soon ended everybody’s ride when he slipped in front of Mitchell and snagged Mason’s final pass.
“It was straight man coverage. The guy tried to run a slant,” White said. “He tried to set it up with an outside move . . . I couldn’t believe it. I may have fell down twice. I was just elated.
“Oh my goodness, I can’t even remember exactly what coach Johnson said [after the game]. We were jumping up and down, and he said something about being state champions. What a great feeling!”