On November 25, 2000, George Godsey led the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to a 27-15 win in Athens -- the third straight win for Georgia Tech in Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. It was the last game that Jim Donnan would ever coach in, and the win drew Georgia Tech’s deficit to 52-38-5 in the all-time series against georgia.
Less than 48 hours later, it was announced that Florida State’s 41-year-old offensive coordinator with no prior head coaching experience would be taking the reins in Athens.
That rookie head coach ended up sticking around for 15 years, putting up a 145-51 (83-37) overall record, including a 13-2 record against Georgia Tech to extend georgia’s lead in the Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate series to 65-40-5.
Despite his success, that same coach was fired the day after his team’s 13th win over Georgia Tech a year ago.
A week later, his replacement was named -- a 39-year-old defensive coordinator with no prior head coaching experience, but with several years of experience in coaching under the man the rest of the conference has basically gone insane trying to beat.
On Saturday, Kirby Smart opens a new era of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate when he coaches against Georgia Tech for the first time. He has no track record as a coach in the series, and brings in a team that’s been lackluster for much of the year. For the Yellow Jackets, it’s critical to use this opportunity to flip the script in the rivalry after 15 years of dominance by georgia.
The opportunity in front of the Yellow Jackets shouldn’t be understated, either. They’ll be taking on a georgia offense that’s spent most of the year looking uninspired to downright bad. They’re led by a freshman quarterback in Jacob Eason who’s struggled majorly at certain points this year, passing behind an offensive line that’s gotten him sacked 21 times on the year. That same offensive line has struggled to make the likes of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel look like anything more than average players. (Last year, they combined for over 6.1 yards per carry. This year, each is individually averaging under 5 yards per carry.) They sport a defense that has been good no matter how you slice it up, although not exactly dominant. Only two teams have managed to score 30+ points against the defense (Ole Miss and Tennessee — both won), yet the team has lost 4 games in all and has almost lost multiple other games where they gave up less than 30 points.
This is a game that Georgia Tech is capable of winning. They come in with a senior quarterback running an offense that’s gotten better throughout the year, although it’s been inconsistent at times. Although they’ve struggled to be efficient in some games, they’ve consistently found ways to hit big plays, both on the ground and through the air. Defensively, much of the season was spent degrading as a “bend, don’t break” system became a “cause minimal inconvenience before giving up points” system. Over the last two weeks, though, there has been a renewed sense of aggression that’s led to much improved results in all phases in a pair of wins.
This is a winnable game for Georgia Tech. If the defense can hold down georgia’s weak offense, and if the Jackets’ offense can hit a few big plays in the game, they should be able to manage their third win in Athens during the Paul Johnson era.
Here’s to hoping the new era in this series starts out on the right foot for Georgia Tech.
TO HELL WITH georgia!