Back Georgia Tech’s ‘State’ of Mind

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Georgia Tech’s ‘State’ of Mind

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Circumstances aside, this is a game where the title tells all.

George O'Leary, he didn't allow you to wear red at all, not on the practice field, not in the building.
~Joe Hamilton

Georgia Tech is one of the most storied programs in college football, boasting four national championships and 16 conference titles, all with a history that dates back to 1892. The Yellow Jackets don't just have three Heisman Trophy winners, they had the man who for whom the trophy is named on campus for 15 years. Tradition, above all other options, is Georgia Tech's biggest tradition. Amidst a skyline of trophies to which few can compare, one accomplishment stands out like a gold dome. 

Most rivals have a deep disdain that is always on display; the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs, however, have it in script. Oftentimes the most enthusiastically-cheered line of the Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech is "...he would yell, 'to hell with Georgia' like his daddy used to do." Additionally, the tune Up With the White and Gold features lines like "down with the red and black", "we'll drop a battle axe on Georgia's head" and finishes with "when the battle is over Georgia's team will be found with the Yellow Jackets swarmin' round, hey!".

In principle and in practice, Georgia Tech continues to celebrate its own successes alongside the failures of those they despise the most. This is a week that lasts a year.

"Everywhere you went, you could feel the magnitude of it," recalled former Georgia Tech All-American quarterback Joe Hamilton, the 1999 Davey O'Brien Award winner. "I'll tell you, to hold that Governor's Trophy up as a senior, you get a replica of it knowing you beat Georgia, it is a great feeling." 

Though the competition, for the Yellow Jackets, may change, the opposition does not. Such is Georgia Tech's disdain for its in-state rivals; such is Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. 

This Governor's Cup runneth over. The Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs have a legacy of loathing that dates back well over 100 years. To this day, the two program's can't even agree upon the number of games played in the series as Georgia Tech cites two wartime era victories that Georgia won't recognize. Differences run deep, with battle lines, going well beyond just hashmarks, measured in both memories and miles.        

These foes share nothing outside of proximity.

"George O'Leary, he didn't allow you to wear red at all, not on the practice field, not in the building," Hamilton continued. "He set the tone as soon as we got there as freshmen."

What happens here never goes away. This is a rivalry, within the confines of the largest state east of the Mississippi River, with lasting power. Highlights stay on constant replay, looping around metro Atlanta like Interstate-285.  

Former Georgia Tech A-Back Roddy Jones is a now a prominent field analyst for ESPN, covering college football games all across the country. Wherever he goes, fans still flashback to his freshman season with the Yellow Jackets. That fall, Jones immediately became a program legend with 13 carries for 214 yards and two touchdowns, compiling 312 all-purpose yards in a win at Georgia. His 54-yard fourth quarter score, a run where Jones sprinted down the sidelines, is, in some ways, ongoing.

"It is the number one thing that they ask me about: what did it feel like in 2008? Maybe the third question is how are the games going with ESPN on the sideline," he laughed. "So it means a lot to Tech people and Georgia people. I meet Georgia people all the time and they will bring up that game as well and then they will quickly remind me that they beat us the rest of my career."

For players and fans alike, the who, what, where, when and why will long remain. 

"We had lost to Georgia seven years in a row. It was in Athens, it was cold, it was rainy," Jones recalled. "They had Matthew Stafford, Mohamed Massaquoi, A.J. Green, Knowshon Moreno. You flip over to the other side and they had Justin Houston, Geno Atkins, guys that are great NFL players. It was a star-studded team throughout and they spent most of the year at number one in the country, so it was awesome for us and it was one that definitely stands out."

Each year Georgia Tech and Georgia play, another page is added to the history book. Though the Bulldogs lead the all-time series, the Yellow Jackets will be quick to tell you that they won the first-ever meeting, own the longest winning streak at eight straight and, most recently, have won the past two meetings in Sanford Stadium. Georgia Tech will also point out a more recent national championship, too. 

In a rivalry like this one, the talking points are always in place. Being able to change the narrative is the ultimate football move.

"They were treating us like little brothers and we had a chip on our shoulders," Hamilton shared. "That was a great feeling, going to Athens and stopping the streak. To come back the next year was even better, my last game in Bobby Dodd; the band had the shape of the number 14 on the field, my mom and dad were there, it was just a great feeling."

This season, perhaps even more so than in year's past, really has come down to one game for Georgia Tech. A disappointing 5-5, the Yellow Jackets need a victory on Saturday to become bowl eligible. Already in the SEC Championship Game and eyeing a spot in the College Football Playoff, Georgia would turn a triumph in Atlanta this weekend to a win-and-you're-in scenario in the city next weekend. Surprisingly, Georgia Tech is looking for its first win at home against the Bulldogs since Hamilton's grand finale in 1999.  

Going to back to week one, the Yellow Jackets should have won against Tennessee, should have won against Miami and should have won against Virginia. An upset of Georgia would do more than just get Georgia Tech into the postseason; it would, in some ways, make everything alright.

"You hate to say one game is a season but bowl eligibility hangs on your rival," Jones added, "one game is kind of going to make this season if Tech were to win."

Circumstances aside, this is a game where the title tells all.

"It is 'Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate'. You see license plates that have the 'G' on it, you want to kind of move them in traffic kind of quickly," Hamilton concluded. "I think we win a little bit better than those Bulldogs do. I have always said, when we win we don't act up enough to let the world and community know what we just did, but when Georgia does it they act like they are the best thing since sliced-bread. It is a different celebration, but we have won two out of the last three so we are ready to go."

Even at a place where national and conference titles call home, there is always room for another state crown.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports