In a sense, the end of the 2016 season was the same as any other for Georgia Tech — it sent off its seniors with one final performance in the white and gold.
Yet, in another sense, this one felt a little more special for the Yellow Jackets. It wasn’t just sending off any other senior class — it was sending off a special one.
It was sending off a senior class that included a three-year starting quarterback, a three-year starting center, a three-year starting defensive lineman, a three-year starting linebacker, and a three-year starting placekicker — all individuals that have made huge contributions to the program through the years and who have served as major leaders for their teammates. They comprised the faces of the program and represented several of the happiest, proudest moments for the team over the length of their careers.
For Georgia Tech, the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl turned out to be a giant tribute to those difference-makers. Consider:
- On Kentucky’s opening drive, a pass rush resulted in senior DL Patrick Gamble forcing a fumble. Senior LB P.J. Davis picked up that fumble and ran it back for a touchdown. Gamble finished the game as the team’s second-leading tackler, and had a pair of sacks to finish the season as the team’s leader with 7.5.
- Late in the first half, after starting with the ball on their own 6-yard line, senior QB Justin Thomas led his offense on an 11-play, 94-yard touchdown drive. He capped it off with a beautiful 21-yard touchdown run on a QB draw, behind the blocking of his senior OL Freddie Burden.
- The first half actually ended with a 52-yard field goal from senior K Harrison Butker. It was one of his four field goals on the game, including two from 40+ yards. It was also his extra point following the first touchdown of the game that saw Butker solidify himself as the all-time leading scorer in Georgia Tech history. He finishes with 337 career points.
These five players, and several of their classmates, have been major impact players for this team, going all the way back to the magical 2014 Orange Bowl run. It feels good knowing they were sent off with a win. It feels better knowing they were able to have such a huge role in one last win for their Georgia Tech teammates and fans.