Georgia Loses Out On SEC Title, But Beats Tech Again 31-17

Saturday, November 24th 2007, 7:26 pm
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia won't get a chance to play for the Southeastern Conference championship. At least the Bulldogs still have their state title. Matthew Stafford ran for one touchdown and threw for another, Thomas Brown rushed for 139 yards, and No. 6 Georgia seemed to catch every break in stretching its winning streak to seven in a row over Georgia Tech with a 31-17 victory on Saturday.

Late in the third quarter, the Bulldogs (10-2) learned their hopes of winning the SEC East ended when Tennessee defeated Kentucky 52-50 in a four-overtime thriller. Both Georgia and the Vols have 6-2 records in the conference, but Tennessee won the tiebreaker with its 35-14 victory over the Bulldogs in early October.

Georgia Tech (7-5) hasn't beaten Georgia since 2000, and there's plenty of speculation that this latest loss could cost coach Chan Gailey his job. He dropped to 0-6 against the Yellow Jackets' biggest rival, and athletic director Dan Radakovich has said he'll evaluate the program after the season.

Stafford caught Georgia Tech off guard by running for a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter, one of four lead changes in the first half. The last of those came with 1:02 left in the second quarter, when Stafford hooked up with Mohamed Massaquoi on a 9-yard touchdown that sent the Bulldogs to the locker room up 16-14.

There would be no more lead changes. Brannan Southerland powered over from the 3 after Stafford threw 55 yards to Sean Bailey. Brown finished off the Yellow Jackets with a 32-yard run down the right sideline with just over 11 minutes left.

A 2-point conversion provided the final margin, the first time in four years the game wasn't decided in the closing minutes. Georgia closed the regular season as hot as anyone in the country, winning six straight. Even though the Bulldogs won't even get to play for their conference title, they are definitely in line for a BCS bowl invitation.

The winning streak over the Yellow Jackets is Georgia's longest in the bitter rivalry and just one shy of Georgia Tech's eight-win run from 1949-56, the longest by either team.

Tashard Choice led the Yellow Jackets with 134 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown. Taylor Bennett threw a 17-yard TD pass to Colin Peek in an otherwise forgettable performance. Bennett was 9-of-27 for 137 yards, and the Yellow Jackets also tried freshman Josh Nesbitt and Calvin Booker at quarterback without much success.

When the public address announcer announced Tennessee's dramatic victory, the Georgia Tech fans cheered. If nothing else, they could take some satisfaction from knowing the Bulldogs wouldn't be returning to Atlanta the following week to play for the SEC title.

Otherwise, it was another forgettable day in late November for the Yellow Jackets, who let numerous chances slip through their hands, were hurt by a disputed interference penalty, and simply couldn't catch a break.

The Bulldogs muffed a couple of punts that rolled free in the end zone, which would have been touchdowns if the home team had recovered. Georgia fell on both, resulting in touchbacks.

Georgia Tech appeared on the verge of grabbing the lead in the third quarter when a botched lateral pass was scooped up by Morgan Burnett, who scampered toward the end zone. But running back Knowshon Moreno hustled after Burnett, chopping the ball away from the freshman at the Georgia 3. It rolled through the end zone for yet another touchback.

The Yellow Jackets were ahead 14-10 late in the first half, and appeared to have forced a field goal try when Stafford's third-down pass for Massaquoi was incomplete in the end zone.

But Massaquoi got tangled up with Burnett, sending both to the ground. Though the contact appeared incidental on the television replay, the official threw a flag for interference to give Georgia first down at the 9. On the very next play, Stafford threw to Massaquoi across the middle for the go-ahead touchdown. Backup kicker Andy Bailey missed the extra point, but Georgia had a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

Georgia's regular kicker, Brandon Coutu, went out with a hamstring injury. Georgia Tech couldn't blame the officials for what happened on its very first possession. Bennett went deep to Correy Earls, who slipped behind cornerback Asher Allen but dropped a sure touchdown pass down the left sideline.