Lough: Game was like a C-Span marathon

ATHENS - On behalf of those forced to stay or those who were crazy enough to remain - and a "bless you" to those who stayed and are now sneezing - here's a "thank you" to Georgia and Georgia Tech.

The football itself had was fairly difficult to watch most of the time, but at least the fact that Saturday ended up being close made almost tolerable sitting in the cold and watching a game that looked like a playoff for the Boise Bowl was on the line.

The winner would get to stay home, the loser went to the land of the blue field.

Georgia Tech was anything but representin' in the stand, and had maybe 2,500 people in the stands at kickoff. A fair amount of them stayed - and were somewhat rewarded- but the 87,000 people on hand at 3:34 p.m. dwindled to maybe half that at the break.

And nobody seemed to stream back into the stadium when Georgia Tech suddenly pulled within six early in the third quarter. They got to see passes thrown at feet more than hands, some fascinating decision-making on the field and on the sidelines, and a closer game than most expected.

Georgia ended up not losing after all, surviving a gutty Georgia Tech second half to hold on 19-13 on a wet, cold Saturday where one begged to wonder why they even left the house. That feeling was down on the field, too.

"I'm sure there were a lot of people who didn't want to go back out there; it was cold and raining," said UGA wideout Reggie Brown, who was then told of the mass exodus at halftime of those not in uniform. "They can't say anything.

Was David Greene worried that one of the team buses broke down carrying the team to Sanford and Dawg Walk?

"Seriously," he said, wideyed.

The breakdowns continued after that.

Had there been no drama, this would've been as entertaining as watching a C-Span marathon: Road to the Secretary of Commerce office. Narrated by Walter Cronkite.

The football lacked fundamentals, consistency, and often any signs of experience.

Quarterbacking was often brutal, for passes aren't supposed to bounce when the receiver is open and nobody's fixing to jump on the quarterback's head.

Preparation was debatable, for Tech's offense was ragged and Georgia looked like it didn't expect Tech to blitz every blessed down. OK, that's an exaggeration.

"I know in the first half, there was one play where they did not blitz," said Georgia center Russ Tanner.

And there were deadly, masochistic timeouts of John Kerryesque lengths, courtesy of The Unit That Runs College Football, aka television. At one point late, Georgia fans started chanting "CBS sucks, CBS sucks."

CBS wasn't playing the game, the tube folks were just forcing us to stay longer to watch it. I'm guessing even TVs in the state turned off after awhile.

Welcome to the winner of Conference USA.

"Nasty," described Greene, who overcame a bum thumb to return and make Georgia's offense look remotely competent and turn in the game-clinching drive, described the game. "Crazy."

Could weather have been that big a deal? Both teams have played in rain and cold, and neither team was displaying a rookie-dominated team.

This sure didn't have the execution of teams playing their 11th game of the season, and neither playing a top five team.

But one thing seems evident. Once each team plays its bowl game, we can spend a few months preparing for a for a quarterback derby in Atlanta and Athens.

Tech coach Chan Gailey has already said it's an open job in the spring, although little of what Jacket fans saw Saturday was inspiring in any fashion.

Georgia coach Mark Richt continues to drive and sell seats to the D.J. Shockley Bandwagon, but the feeling here - first stated back in May - that the Bulldogs will have a quarterback competition for 2005 was only enhanced and strengthened by what transpired Saturday, where one-liners galore flew that Shockley was doing a solid Ball impersonation at times.

And no, Tech fans don't find that funny either, because the play at quarterback has driven them mad for most of the season.

Let's note that Ball and Shockley combined to go 18 for 47 for 253 yards passing, 18 rushes for minus 47 yards.

Were the defenses that incredible? No. They were good, sometimes better than that, but between there were more open receivers than good passes. And neither did anything surprising.

Boy, I know two sets of offensive lines that have next season riding on them more than usual.

There is credit to hand out, mostly to Tech.

The Jackets survived brutal quarterback play, which led to some head-scratching play-calling, all of which was overshadowed by a superb defensive performance on the field and in the booth.

As forgettable as the actual football was most of the time, it was easy to see why Jon Tenuta's an upper echelon defensive coordinator. David Greene never got into much rhythm before went out, and Shockley was absolutely befuddled and literally ran in circles a few times.

The Jackets never folded, thanks in part to Georgia's sluggishness, courtesy of an aggressive Tech defense.

"We fought back," said Gailey, whose team has been accused at times of not necessarily doing that. "They did not get down."

Indeed, the Jackets appeared to be more enthused and the beneficiary of more adjustments at the break.

If it's cold the next time both teams practice, I know one way they can stay warm.

Stand around the burning of the game film.

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