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Published: December 5th 2019
I had several options for rivalry week in college football, and I don't regret going to a place I have been before, to watch a matchup I have seen several times. Though I had my choice of games for this rivalry week, I also had commitments on Sunday back home, so it meant I had to stay within an area that would allow me to be back by noon the following day. My heart was really set on the Iron Bowl, but the price just never got low enough for me to consider it as a serious option. In hindsight, of course, that would have been THE game to choose—it had everything you could hope for in a college football game, and people will be talking about it for years to come. So maybe the price was justified. Still, I can’t see paying that much if I don’t have a metaphorical dog in the fight. The same could be said about Florida-Florida State. The game wasn’t as epic, but the price was unreasonable for a matchup that looked completely ridiculous on paper. Plus it was a night game, and in the opposite direction from where I wanted to be heading. The
only other game that fit my criteria, and one where I was definitely interested in the outcome, was Clean Old-Fashioned Hate. That’s what the Georgia-Georgia Tech matchup is called. These rivalries all gotta have names, right?
This wasn’t a bad day for football at all. I’ve remarked to some people how I’m a bit of a precipitation scarecrow, at least when I travel. And that has continued with my journeys through the land of college football. I had light, intermittent sprinkles at LSU, but nothing really worth mentioning. It snowed on me at Notre Dame, but again, the only thing remarkable about that was that I had never been snowed on at a football game before. It was light, more like a dusting that didn’t accumulate at all, and it lasted maybe five minutes. Today, several places were inundated with precipitation, and there was even talk of the ol’ Bomb Cyclone in some parts. But in Atlanta, no traces of that. The morning was overcast, but around game time, the clouds lifted. And it was sunny for the rest of the day. I was in the shade for most of the game, and that’s what I was hoping for.
Even in cooler weather—it was in the fifties and lower sixties during the game—I don’t wanna be in the sun.
Georgia Tech is in the middle of Atlanta. And I mean the middle. It’s not called Midtown for nothing. It’s right off the connector—that’s the union of I-75 and I-85 for those not in the know. This is great for easy access, but it’s also terrible when traffic is around. With a noon game, I opted to leave as early as I could, which ended up being around 7:15. And with it being a Saturday morning, I made it to the campus to park in just over an hour. That’s fantastic timing, if you don’t understand Atlanta traffic. I had bought a parking pass online the night before, so after I parked (for $12.50), I decided to walk around the campus on foot. A kind lady with a golf cart was waiting just outside the parking deck to shuttle people around, and after I told her I wanted to walk (she was genuinely surprised to hear that), we talked for a minute about our game expectations. She said she was hoping for something that wasn’t a blowout, and I
was considerate and said that I hoped it would be a good game. That was a lie. I hoped for a game that only UGA fans would enjoy.
I meandered around the campus, and in some places, you can actually forget that you’re in the middle of a major metropolitan area. There aren’t that many “old looking” buildings around the campus, though. A couple of dorms, and the administration building, look like they’re more than fifty or sixty years old. But this is a tech school, and so they’re going to gravitate toward the more modern-looking buildings. Lots of sleek architecture and glass. They have engineers, and they can show off their skills with their buildings.
Honestly, I saw more people wearing red and black than white and gold. Oh, and there’s blue for some reason. Georgia Tech’s official colors are white and old gold, which I found out around ten years ago from an alumna because I mistakenly thought their colors where black and gold (like yellow jackets, the mascot for the school). I’m still at a loss as to why blue is a color that the team wears and that the majority of the athletic apparel
for fans uses as a predominant color. I mean, sure, UGA could decide to make purple a major color for all their uniforms and fan swag, but our colors are red and black, and that’s enough. It’s like someone said, “White and gold really aren’t enough, or aren’t good enough, so let’s add this other color just because.” Anybody got the scoop on why a school would choose to wear a color that isn’t one of their official colors?
Speaking of colors, every game I’ve ever been to in this series has seen UGA wear red jerseys and Tech wear white ones. In Athens or in Atlanta, it has always been that way for as long as I’ve been coming to this game. (By the way, I haven’t been to this game in Atlanta since 2013, because the tickets have always been over $100. Nope.) But this year, maybe because the new coach for Tech said so, or because they were tired of seeing so much red in their home stadium, Tech said no. The UGA players came out in white jerseys to warm up, which surprised me. Then I saw that Tech players were wearing gold jerseys, and
that settled it.
Anyway, after walking around the campus, I decided to walk over the connector and ostensibly leave the campus. But Georgia Tech has buildings on both sides of the interstates. In fact, the campus swag store is on the other side from the heart of campus, which includes most classroom buildings and the stadium. A short walk away from the swag store is The Varsity, an Atlanta staple for greasy food. It’s not my first choice, but it’s a local favorite, and one that everyone in Atlanta, probably even the state of Georgia, knows about. Most have probably made a visit, too. “What’ll Ya Have?” is how they greet you when you walk up to the counter to place an order. Gets me every time. Their website said they weren’t open until 10:30 on Saturdays, by which time I had expected to be going into the stadium. But there were LOTS of tailgaters in the parking lots around the place, and so I decided to give the restaurant a shot. It was indeed open now, which was around 9:30, but not many people were inside. So the ordering was quick, and the food got to me very
fast. I got some grease with a side of grease and a frosted orange to drink. It’s one of the main reasons to go there, the frosted orange. Yummy.
I was there for about 45 minutes, just enjoying my grease and seeing some college football programing on the big screens in the room I sat in. Also basically the entire clientele at this point was in red. Go Dawgs.
Then I made my way to the stadium, only a block away, back across the interstates. There was a little fanfest area set up on the opposite side of the stadium, so I checked it out. Live music, photo booth, some giveaways, and some food vendors. I picked up a gold shaker, since the only ones I had were shiny gold, and this one was more matte-looking. I guess that’s what “old gold” is. The people manning the booth where the shakers were sitting said I was fine to take one, as long as I only used it to cheer when Tech scored. I just grinned and replied, “We’ll see.” That was another lie. And we all knew it, so no harm done.
There are many derogatory things
I could say about Georgia Tech, but I've tried to be as unbiased as I possibly can. That doesn’t mean I’ll be kind to them, but just know that I know I’m not being very fair when I discuss Tech. It’s a bit meta.
For most of this millennium, this rivalry has been anything but. Tech has won three times in the past twenty years, all of them in Athens. So they do have that going for them. Unfortunately, they can’t defend their home turf for squat, since they’ve not won at home against UGA since the 1990s. My dad tells me that Tech was a big thorn in UGA’s side back in the 1980s and early 1990s. In fact, Tech’s most recent national championship is from that period: 1990. One of the things that Tech fans loved to harp on is that UGA hasn’t won a national championship since 1980. Facts are facts. But if we’re gonna be honest, at this point, there’s not much difference between 1980 and 1990. And when one of the Tech people scored what they thought was a zinger against UGA when he said very loudly something about it not being 1980, I
turned and, in the most polite way possible, asked him which bowl game Tech was going to this year.
Yes, Tech sucks. This year in particular, as they only won three games the entire season. They even lost to an FCS school at home. Despite not having any reason to brag about anything, these fans still got loud and, in some places, obnoxious. Naturally, you might be saying that UGA fans are obnoxious. Sometimes, they are. As a crowd, most definitely they will become that way if provoked. But it’s another thing entirely to talk trash to people when you have no ground on which to stand. UGA will be playing in the SEC Championship Game next week, and this game is basically a play-in for the Playoffs. In fact, it’s possible that both teams could make it to the Playoffs if UGA wins. But that’s for another blog post. UGA won ten games prior to coming to Georgia Tech, including wins over three teams that are still ranked. They did lose to South Carolina, at home, and this is an ugly blemish that won’t go away. But Tech lost to The Citadel at home. That’s not going away,
But that brings me to Tech’s only real motivation in this game: to give their arch-rival a huge black eye on the national stage. If they could beat the number-four team in the country, not only would it be a technical victory, but it would also be a moral one. They would keep UGA out of the Playoffs, regardless of the outcome of next week’s SEC Championship game. UGA had done that to Tech back in 2009, when Tech was ranked seventh and going to play in the ACC Championship game the following week; a win there (which they got over Clemson) would have put them in a good position to lobby for a spot in the national championship. But UGA came in, with barely a winning record (6-5) and ran all over Tech in their own house, giving them a loss and eliminating them from the championship conversation. So it had happened before, and Tech had been the losers. Now UGA came in, in the same position. And Tech hoped they could give UGA a dose of their 2009 medicine. That was their goal. They couldn’t play for anything else, not even positioning themselves for a bowl
game, since they had an irredeemable losing record at this point.
One of the things I’ve said repeatedly over the course of this football season is how much I like going to good games, not to beatdowns. The first two weeks of the season, where I watched three teams pummel severely overmatched opponents, made me realize this. Even if the tickets were cheap (or free!), the atmosphere and the drama were not very good. And if I was going to drive a few hours (or a whole day) to watch a football game, I wanted to be entertained. That was not the case against Georgia Tech. For starters, I didn’t have to travel very far. Second, this was the most expensive ticket I bought all season (though still under $100), so I expected to see my alma mater win. Third, style points matter for those teams near the top of the rankings, because it really is a beauty contest for the Playoff Committee. And fourth, it was Tech, and I want to see them suffer.
It’s true that I don’t normally give Tech a second thought. They exist, and they have good engineering programs, and they graduate people
who design awesome things and help make life easier. I’ve been to their campus before, and I have friends who graduated from there, or who were fans when we were growing up, and I don’t hate on them. But during Rivalry Week, or Hate Week as some people call it, all bets are off. Losing to Tech in any season will make the next year a little worse, just because that stigma is there. Losing to Tech in THIS season would’ve been unforgivable, for all the reasons outlined above.
And while I don’t give Tech a second thought on most days, the same cannot be said for Tech fans when it comes to UGA. Everything about their existence seems to be rooted in an inferiority complex compared to UGA. Their fans will yell out, “What’s the good word?” And the response is “To Hell with Georgia.” They even have it abbreviated on shirts—THWG. This is their whole identity. At various points during the game, a coach from one of the other sports teams would come on the screen in a pre-recorded message and repeat this process three times. They would ask the question, and the crowd was expected to
give the correct response. Sounds like someone’s compensating for something, and it’s not even that good. Also, I’m not an engineer or even a math person, but I can count. And that little phrase appears to be four words, not one. 4 >1, right? That’s not a good word, and that’s not good math, either. Shame on the math whizzes who came up with that one.
But what about the game? Well, the Tech student section never fully filled up, so that was good for the Dawgs. And the entire upper deck looked to be dressed in red. Even a large chunk of the lower level, where I was seated, was solid red. We could look out to the opposite side on the lower level and see more gold, but even then, it was about fifty-fifty with red interspersed. As someone commented, it looked like a UGA home game. And it usually is, when Tech is doing so poorly, like this year.
In the first quarter, things looked like most UGA fans expected. After exchanging three-and-outs, UGA got the ball back and scored, and scored, and scored. At the end of the first quarter, it was 17-0, UGA.
I felt like I could breathe easy. But then the second quarter happened, and yuck. People who watched the game on TV told me that they were never worried about the outcome of this game. The emotions of people who attended it, however, are likely quite different. At the beginning of the second quarter, after forcing a Tech punt, the UGA return dude fumbled it and gave it to Tech in the red zone, and Tech proceeded to make a quick TD. So the new score was 17-7. And the rest of the second quarter was like that: another turnover, and then Tech recovered an onside kick that really should’ve been an easy play for UGA. The momentum very much felt like it had swung in Tech’s favor during this entire quarter. They missed a field goal, and we celebrated, but then Rodrigo Blankenship, celebrity walk-on kicker for UGA, missed a field goal as time expired in the half. The Tech fans went wild. Still, the score never changed during the second quarter. We went to the half leading by ten points.
But to hear the Tech people, they were winning. At no point had they even tied the
game, much less had the lead. But they had kept Georgia from scoring again. I can see why people at home weren’t worried. But being in that stadium, hearing those Tech people celebrating every botched UGA play and being elated when the Dawgs couldn’t get anything going, I felt a little worried. I won’t deny that. The Tech people two rows behind me were the most obnoxious about it. Frankly, it felt like the only reason they were there was to see how badly UGA would do. Not to see how well their own team would be. It does feel that way with a lot of supposed Tech fans: they’re more interested in seeing the other team lose than in seeing their own team win. Frankly, I hope Tech wins every game they play, and they can come into this game 11-0 and get curb stomped by the Dawgs.
Spoiler alert: the aforementioned curb-stomping took place in the second half. Kirby Smart must’ve said something to the players after that abysmal second quarter, because the offense decided to roll. The Dawgs put up 21 points in the third quarter alone, and Smart took out QB Jake Fromm before the
fourth quarter, too. The Tech fans were pretty quiet now. The second-string offense got a TD in the fourth quarter, and finally the UGA special teams made a good play by recovering a fumbled kickoff by the Tech player in their own endzone to score the first UGA positive turnover on the day. With three minutes left in the game, UGA broke the 50-point barrier with the recovered TD. It was the most points scored by a single team in this rivalry, ever. The UGA defense had been the shining stars for the whole game, holding Tech to just seven points, and that coming from a UGA turnover where Tech was already in the red zone. If we had been worried about it being a close game in the second quarter, the final score was anything but. The offense had finally shown up, and they put the Yellow Jackets’s season to rest. Final score: 52-7.
It’s always good to hang around the stadium after destroying your in-state rival to close out your regular season. At least for us, we don’t do anything disrespectful to the plants around the stadium. The same cannot be said for Tech fans (or anyone,
really) that comes to Sanford Stadium in Athens. The band played some songs, we all chanted together “And to Hell with Georgia Tech” (but only when we play them, not every damn week), and then it was a clustershag to get out of the stadium. Just like at LSU.
The walk back to the car was easy, and I even got to take a selfie with Uga, the UGA live mascot and best mascot in all of college football, since the Seilers (the family that owns the Uga line) were waiting on the UGA buses to move. Then back to my car, and a relatively painless exit onto the interstate. And I was home in just over an hour. I wish Atlanta traffic was always that easy. But blowing out the smack-talking kid brother in your state probably makes the drive back a lot better.
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