After a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Hutson Mason to junior Malcolm Mitchell to put Georgia out in front 24-21, the Bulldogs’ defense just needed to keep Georgia Tech out of field goal range for 18 seconds. Richt, however, was looking to eliminate the big play instead.
“I’m probably as sick as I’ve ever been after a loss and as sick about any call that I’ve made when it came to deciding to squib the kick at the end, basically giving them enough field position and enough opportunity to get into position to get the kick – not a good decision there,” Richt said.
Leading by a field goal, Richt called for Marshall Morgan to line up for a squib kick and take away any opportunity for Georgia Tech to score a long touchdown on the return. That part of the plan worked, but it left the possibility of a long field goal to chance.
Morgan’s kickoff went for 38 yards and was returned to the Georgia Tech 43-yard line by redshirt junior Anthony Harrell.
“It was just a bummer,” Morgan said. “Kicked the squib kick and they returned it a little further than we’d hoped and I don’t know how many yards they ended up getting for a long field goal and Harrison hit a good kick.”
With 13 seconds remaining on the clock, a 21-yard rush by quarterback Justin Thomas set Harrison Butker up for a 53-yard field goal. That’s as close as the sophomore kicker needed to be. Butker hit a career-long 53-yard field goal as time expired to send the game to overtime.
While Richt’s decision to call the squib kick appeared to cost Georgia the game, the call itself wasn’t the only flaw in the plan. Georgia’s lack of execution on the squib kick landed it in an overtime battle with its in-state rival.
“Coach dialed up the squib kick and that’s the decision he went with and we went with it,” senior wideout Jonathon Rumph said. “We accepted it and that’s part of the game. You can’t say that was a bad decision because you never know what could have happened. Georgia Tech made a great kick and it went into overtime, but I feel like coach dialed it up and I feel like whatever he’s behind I’m behind so that’s what he wanted and that’s how it went. That’s a hard bullet to bite down on, but at the same time we should have just executed better. You win some and you lose some.”
Georgia left Sanford Stadium with a loss Saturday afternoon. The decision was made and now Georgia has to undoubtedly live with it. The 53-yard field goal didn’t lose the game, but it did tie it, and the squib kick is what gave Georgia Tech that opportunity.
“I should have let him kick it deep and go cover the thing and see what happened from there,” Richt said.