I have been watching Tech football since 2007, so I'm a relatively young fan. But never, in all my days, have I seen a game quite like Saturday's. I still haven't really realized, understood, or digested what we just witnessed. Such heroics. Poetic justice was served on all levels. I don't even want to get into it right now because there is more than an article's worth to say, and this week's superlatives are going to be the longest ever already.
For now, though, my official stance on the game is "Wow." Let's get on with it because I'm in danger of rambling.
Player of the Game (Offense)
Justin Thomas – It wasn’t the most glamorous stat line of his career, but the gritty sophomore made a very high percentage of his reads correctly and accomplished what only a few other Tech quarterbacks in the last decade and a half have been able to do. Justin finished the day 6/16 passing for 64 yards with a nice touchdown to Waller on a fade, and 12 rushes for 34 yards with a 21-yard run that set up Butker’s tying field goal. He did have two fumbles, but both were extremely questionable calls. The forward progress no-call is, in my opinion, the worst officiating atrocity I have ever seen.
Zach Laskey – The White Stallion. The Z-Lazer. The Workhorse. Call him what you want; he is deserving of all of those titles and much more. Laskey and Synjyn ("Ebony and ivory", as Laskey calls it) had a good tag-team going until Synjyn went down with an injury early in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, and not surprisingly, the senior stud B-back was able to shoulder the load and carry the team to victory. Laskey finished with a monster 140 yards and three touchdowns, one of which came in overtime. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Deon Hill – The veteran A-back quietly put together a heck of a game behind the insane production of Tech’s B-backs. Aside from superb blocking on the edge, Deon finished the day with two receptions for 13 yards and five rushes for 56 yards. He also made a heads-up play on a late pitch from Justin, which you’ll see a little bit more of later.
Shaq Mason – While I don’t have the stats on the senior’s monster day, the film speaks for itself. Shaq has been on a mission lately, and he looked like a man among boys on Saturday as he waded through a frightened and outmatched georgia defense. Time after time, Shaq blew up the georgia defensive line and linebackers. He was even the main blocker on two of the White Stallion’s touchdown runs. Shaq earned ACC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week honors for his outstanding performance.
Offensive Play of the Game
Darren Waller’s 7-yard TD Reception – The fade to Waller has been money this year. Justin threw a perfect pass to the corner of the end zone at the end of the first half, and Waller went up and got it. The georgia defenders didn’t even try to stop it, because they knew they couldn’t. Instead, they sat back and watched a couple of excellent athletes play pitch and catch on a sunny afternoon.
Justin’s 21-yard rush with 13 seconds left – The official play call from Paul Johnson was for Justin to try to find a receiver deep downfield, get it to him, and then try to clock it and set up a last-second field goal. Justin, however, had to improvise once the dwags dropped eight into coverage. The speedy QB’s legs had never failed him before, and they didn’t this time, either. Justin made the quick decision that no one was open and scampered up the far sideline for a 21-yard gain – EXACTLY the amount of yardage that Harrison Butker needed to be able to squeak out a long field goal. This was a huge play from a big-time player, who just moments before had sat with his head in his hands on the bench after making a costly (and controversial) mistake that almost lost the game for the Jackets. What a rebound. What a play.
Justin’s Late Pitch to Deon Hill – The Jackets were driving again, after blocking a georgia field goal. Tech’s last two drives had been potential backbreakers, after the disgusting no-call on forward progress gave georgia a 14-point swing. The Jackets were still in the game, though, and were driving in georgia territory. Justin took an option play to the near sideline, and two dwags appeared to have committed to stopping him. He faked the pitch to Deon, but neither defender bit. A half-second before getting drilled, Justin jumped and dumped the pitch off to Deon over the head of georgia’s Damian Swann for the 17-yard gain. This is the ultimate focus play – Justin knew he was going to get leveled, but still made an amazing pitch on a three-dimensional read to get the first down and more. It’s also one of those plays that shows us that Justin truly understands the option.
Laskey’s 2-yard TD run in OT – While this was Laskey’s shortest touchdown run of the day, it came at the most crucial time, and was truly an impressive effort. Laskey muscled his way through georgia’s goal line set to hit paydirt for the Jackets, and it proved to be the difference maker in the game.
Player of the Game (Defense)
Isaiah Johnson – Isaiah has been a turnover machine for this ever-improving Tech defense. His stat line - 10 tackles, 2 TFL for 3 yards, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery – is reminiscent of his crazy performance in the first few minutes of the Pittsburgh game this year. He was in on BOTH of the goal line turnovers by the dwags, causing one and recovering another. He also blew up a couple of runs in the backfield, and overall had a very productive day in the secondary.
Quayshawn Nealy – Tallying nine tackles and a forced fumble on the goal line as georgia RB Sony Michel tried to extend the ball over the line, Quayshawn had another active game leading the formidable Tech defense. A great performance in the senior captain’s last regular season game as a Jacket.
KeShun Freeman – KeShun was a force in the georgia backfield and played a major part in disrupting the dwags’ run game. What really stood out, other than his five tackles, a TFL, and a sack, was the way he held his own against one of the nation’s best offensive lines - as a freshman. The future is bright for the Tech defensive line.
D.J. White – While the junior corner put together a modest stat line – four tackles and a TFL – he also recorded the biggest play of the day and maybe the season: his game-ending interception on the five yard line. I’m still in shock. That is a play we will remember for the rest of our lives.
Defensive Play of the Game
D.J. White’s HEART-STOPPING INTERCEPTION – I don’t even have to explain this one. The Pick. You've seen it. You've probably seen it multiple times, if you're like me. And dreamt about it. And reenacted it in your front yard.
Isaiah Johnson’s Forced Fumble/Tyler Marcordes Recovery – This play is essentially a pick-six without the points. After Chris Milton ran down Chubb at the 1-yard line (a truly impressive effort, almost on level with D.J. White’s strip of Pittsburgh’s James Conner on the goal line), Isaiah put his helmet on the ball when Chubb tried to go up and over the line into the end zone, jarring the ball free. Tyler Marcordes made a heads-up play and jumped on the loose ball to secure the turnover.
Quayshawn Nealy’s Forced Fumble/Isaiah Johnson Recovery – Déjà vu. Another georgia RB tried to make a play on the goal line, and another Tech defender made an amazing play to secure the turnover. Sony Michel tried to extend the ball over the goal line on his way out of bounds, but Quayshawn Nealy had other plans and blew him up on the two yard line, knocking the ball free.
Goal Line Stand – georgia had just ran a fake field goal play down to the three yard line, where Isaiah Johnson decapitated georgia’s Marshall Morgan. With the game knotted at 14 early in the fourth quarter, it appeared as though the dwags were going to take a seven-point lead. Not so fast. The Tech defense stood tall and stuffed the dwags like a Thanksgiving turkey on three consecutive plays, sending georgia’s bland offense to the sidelines in favor of the field goal unit.
Special Teams Play of the Game
We have to have a new section here. Special teams play was pretty dang good in this game. I think we all know who will win, but don't forget about the other huge plays our guys made on Saturday!
The Kick – I do not have words. Butker drilled a 53-yarder with four seconds left to force the first overtime EVER in Sanford Stadium. I still do not have words. THE KICK.
Adam Gotsis’ blocked field goal – Tech was reeling after the officials made a nauseatingly filthy no-call on forward progress that angered the nation. The dwags had taken the lead, and the Jackets’ last drive was a three and out for negative yardage. It looked over. That’s when the Aussie, the Thunder From Down Under, Adam "Don’t-Worry-Guys-I" Gotsis jumped as high as a kangaroo and blocked georgia’s 49-yard field goal attempt that would have given the dwags a two score lead. The whole Tech team seemed revitalized by the Menace of Melbourne’s heroics, and Justin promptly marched the men downfield for the equalizer.
Lawrence Austin’s kick recovery – "The whole georgia defense is standing around looking at each other like, ‘What just happened?’" That is a quote from 2008, after Roddy Jones’s reality-defying touchdown run iced the dwags in Athens. However, I think it applies here too. What was meant to be a short kickoff to keep the ball away from uga’s return men turned into a great play by freshman Lawrence Austin, who snagged the ball from, well, no one, because no georgia players really seemed interested in fielding it.
Biggest Obstacle Overcome
I’ve also listed a few of the ways the entire universe conspired against us in this game. It’s great that we won – seriously, it’s great – but I’m still a little hacked off about all of the things that unfairly went against us. You don’t have to vote in this section, but I’d be interested in your thoughts. I left a blank space for you all to express your feelings as well. Let me hear it. I’ll publish the best ones in the article on Thursday.