For nearly 57 minutes, the Georgia Tech and Georgia teams were twins. Both had stifled on defense and sputtered on offense. Each had scored once and missed a field goal from the same spot. Then, as often happens, Georgia fans left with the better-looking (if stupider) twin.
Georgia scored its second touchdown with 3:18 left, Tech drove the length of the field but failed to score, and that was it. The Bulldogs won their fifth straight and 57th overall in the 100th game of the series Saturday, 14-7 in front of a capacity crowd of 55,000 at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.
Tech dominated most statistics, other than the one that really counted. The Jackets outgained the Bulldogs 327 yards to 266, outrushed them 172 to 68, recorded seven more first downs, held the ball for nearly nine more minutes. Even Tech quarterback Reggie Ball (18-35, two interceptions and and a touchdown, 64 yards rushing) outplayed his more vaunted counterpart, D.J. Shockley, for 59 minutes.
A long punt return set up Shockley for a 19-yard touchdown pass to Bryan McLendon. Ball answered, marching Tech from their own 26 to Georgia's 26 in less than a minute.
But with 1:11 on the clock, Ball was fooled by cornerback Tim Jennings' coverage on a short sideline route. Jennings stepped in front of Damarius Bilbo and picked off Ball's pass at the 11, returning it 29 yards to seal the game.
Turnovers and penalties kept Tech from turning statistical domination into a win, head coach Chan Gailey said.
"You can't make the mistakes that we made and expect to beat a good football team in a big rival game," Gailey said. "Things that we have not done all year happened in this ball game and it catches up to you."
The game was the first this year in which Tech had scored on its opening possession and failed to win. Tech beat Auburn, North Carolina, Connecticut, Wake Forest and Miami after scoring touchdowns on opening drives.
The Jackets moved the ball easily on their first possession, mixing tailback and quarterback runs with a long downfield pass to march 78 yards in 10 plays. Ball found Calvin Johnson on a high fade pass from the two for a touchdown.
Georgia answered on its second possession with a long drive of its own, matching two long Shockley passes with good running by tailback Kregg Lumpkin. Fullback Brandon Southerland banged in from the one to cap an eight-play, 82-yard drive.
Tech stopped Georgia's offense for the next two quarters, and its offense stopped itself with turnovers and penalties. A Ball fumble at midfield gave Georgia a scoring opportunity, but KaMichael Hall intercepted Shockley at the Tech 12.
Brandon Coutu missed a 48-yard field goal attempt wide left in the second quarter. Tech moved the ball into Georgia territory, but Ball underthrew a deep pass for an interception.
The third quarter continued the puntfest before Tech put a drive together that stalled at the Georgia 30. Travis Bell pushed his 48-yard attempt wide right. An exchange of punts and a 33-yard Thomas Flowers return gave the Bulldogs the ball at Tech's 39, setting up a 5-play drive ending in Shockley's touchdown pass to McLendon.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said patience and avoiding big mistakes gave his team the win.
"It was just a great field position game, a great defensive battle," Richt said. We had to stay patient, as much as we hated it, and let our special teams do their job, and then knock it in when we needed to."
Georgia (9-2) plays in Atlanta again next week in the SEC championship game against LSU. Tech (7-4) awaits a bowl bid.