The Yellow Jackets had only 313 yards total offense compared to 392 for Auburn, but were able to build an early lead, turn up the heat defensively and force turnovers on Auburn's final five possessions.
"There's a lot to that," said Tech head coach Chan Gailey about the five turnovers his defense forced. "We ended up putting them back in their end zone almost to start every drive. Against our defense it is hard to go 95 yards or 92 yards. You're going to make a mistake. We're going to force a mistake at some point in time."
Georgia Tech built a 10-0 lead after its first two possessions, while Auburn got off to a slow start with a three-plays-and-out on its first three series. However, first-year Auburn starting quarterback Brandon Cox was able to get the offense going for a while before melting under pressure.
"We were giving up too many passes and some runs," said linebacker Gerris Wilkinson, who had a key interception with 3:40 remaining in the game. "As the game went on he (Cox) started getting a little more comfortable and getting into the flow of the game. We were just giving up too many short passes and not making tackles.
"Even toward the end we were giving up stuff and in the end we ended up getting turnovers," Wilkinson added. "That's what saved us was the turnovers."
Cox finished the game with 22 completions on 44 attempts for 342 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a turnover on the Tigers' final five possessions--four picks and a lost fumble.
"Cox is going to be a good quarterback," Gailey noted. "This is going to be a good football team that we played tonight. It was just one of those nights where we were able to get to him--his hand gets hit or we jump somebody underneath the route. We were able to get a bunch of turnovers there in the end that were able to seal the victory for us."
Another fundamental aspect of the game where the Jackets whipped the Tigers was in penalties. Tech was penalized eight times for 45 yards while the Tigers were penalized 11 times for 86 yards.
Offensively, the Yellow Jackets were led by tailback P. J. Daniels, quarterback Reggie Ball and receiver Calvin Johnson. Daniels netted 111 yards on the ground on 23 carries while adding two catches for 15 yards. He had a couple of big gainers on draw plays out of the shotgun, but the counter play and cutback lanes were open most of the night against the Tigers.
"We had some (weakside runs) planned and some went front-side and went against the flow," Gailey said of the Tech rushing attack. "The question we had was, ‘How fast are the linebackers going to flow' And tonight they flew faster tonight than they had on film. We got the cutback and I was a little surprised we got so many cutbacks."
Gailey added that his offensive line's athletic ability played a big part in the Daniels' rushing success.
"The best thing is that our guys are athletic and we can scheme block," he said. "Like the third and 10 play where P.J. ripped off a run on a counter. That was well blocked by our offensive line. They are very intelligent and they're good athletes and we're trying to use that to our advantage right now."
Ball, who threw 18 interceptions last year, had only one turnover on the night while adding 192 yards of offense. He added one touchdown on a 35-yard pass over the Auburn defense to super sophomore receiver Calvin Johnson for the first score of the game. Johnson had four catches for 66 yards.
"DBo (Bilbo) and Pat Clark really made a difference in the ball game tonight," Gailey said. "That gives us a couple of other places to throw other than just throwing it up to Calvin. We played a quarter without Calvin and we still moved the football."