ATHENS, Ga. -- Let’s take a look at three key plays from No. 3 Georgia’s 42-10 win against Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Deep ball to Mitchell
The score: Georgia leads 14-3
The situation: With 8 seconds left in the first quarter, Georgia faces first-and-10 at its own 15-yard line.
Why it worked: Speedy Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell broke away from Georgia Tech safety Isaiah Johnson on a corner route and quarterback Aaron Murray hit him with a well-placed strike for a 57-yard gain.
The breakdown: On the final play of a strong first quarter, Georgia lined up three receivers to the right: Mitchell, Chris Conley and Tavarres King. Mitchell, the inside receiver, darted straight down the field after the snap and then broke right toward the Georgia Tech sideline, building plenty of space between himself and Johnson for Murray to drop the pass to him at the Tech 46.
Mitchell stumbled as he hauled in the pass and Johnson finally jumped on his back and rode him to the ground at the 28, but the sophomore wideout had already made a huge catch that would set up Georgia’s third touchdown two plays later.
What it means: The Murray-to-Mitchell connection has been highly effective in recent weeks. Saturday snapped the receiver’s streak of four straight games with a touchdown catch, but he led the Bulldogs with 88 yards on three catches. That big-play ability could come in handy against an Alabama secondary that has been vulnerable at points this season.
The score: Georgia leads 21-3
The situation: With 9:56 left in the second quarter, Georgia Tech faces fourth-and-4 at the Georgia 42.
Why it worked: Georgia’s defensive line strung out a fourth-down quarterback keeper and nearly the entire defense rallied to the ball to tackle quarterback Vad Lee for a loss.
The breakdown: The Bulldogs had just easily scored their third touchdown in three possessions, so when Paul Johnson’s team drove into Georgia territory and faced fourth-and-4, he opted to go for a first down.
Upon taking the snap, Lee ran right and never showed an interest in pitching to A-back B.J. Bostic. He had his mind set on running around right end for a first down. The problem was that outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins did a good job cutting off the corner and defensive end John Jenkins plowed through two blockers to meet Lee head-on at the 42 when he tried to turn upfield. Meanwhile Garrison Smith -- having caused left tackle Ray Beno to whiff completely on a cut-block attempt -- was now closing in on Lee at the line of scrimmage as well.
Neither Jenkins nor Smith made the tackle there, but Tech’s quarterback had nowhere to go but backward -- and six Bulldogs were all within a few feet of him as he escaped Smith’s grasp. John Jenkins kept him backpedaling toward midfield and the others gave chase as he retreated all the way to his own 49 near the Tech sideline. He escaped from Alec Ogletree and John Jenkins to the sideline, but had nowhere to go with Smith, Jordan Jenkins and both safeties, Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams, closing in on him to finish the tackle.
By the time Lee finally went to the ground, he had seven Georgia players on top of him -- Jarvis Jones, Smith, Christian Robinson, Williams, Rambo, Ogletree and Jordan Jenkins -- with John Jenkins standing directly next to the pileup.
What it means: On a day full of physical tackling, this was perhaps the best example of the rallying to the ball that will be necessary if Georgia is to stand up to Alabama’s strong offensive line and running game in the SEC championship game.
The score: Georgia leads 21-3
The situation: With 5:33 remaining in the second quarter, Georgia Tech has first-and-10 at its own 47.
Why it worked: Rambo continued his turnover-happy ways of late by streaking to a deep ball and making an interception near the Bulldogs’ goal line.
The breakdown: Georgia Tech had just been gifted 15 yards when the officials rightfully flagged Jones for roughing the passer, but blew an obvious offensive pass interference call on the same play. So Tech set up near midfield and tried to catch Georgia’s secondary off guard with a pass to A-back Bostic down the middle.
Lee pump-faked on a quick screen to receiver Darren Waller on the right while Bostic streaked up the seam and then threw just as Smith broke through the line and landed at his feet. However, Rambo was with Bostic the whole way and easily caught the errant pass over his shoulder at the 9. His momentum carried him into the Georgia end zone before he wheeled around and returned the turnover to the Georgia 32.
What it means: After leading the SEC with eight interceptions last season, Rambo had not generated many turnovers until lately. But he had a pair of takeaways against Georgia Tech and has made three interceptions, forced three fumbles and recovered one in the last five games -- a good sign for the Bulldogs’ final two games.