ATLANTA - Georgia sophomore defensive end Garrison Smith hears each week about being ready to enter the game at any time, and he was told by Bulldogs defensive line coach Rodney Garner that he would be the first reserve in Saturday against Georgia Tech.
Still, it came as a surprise when starting end DeAngelo Tyson suffered an ankle injury 25 seconds in that forced him to miss the rest of Georgia's 31-17 triumph.
"It was crazy," Smith said. "As soon as he went down I was like, 'Uh, oh. My number is being called.'"
Playing in his hometown, the 6-foot-3, 294-pounder was hardly a weak link on a defense that no longer seems to have weak links. Smith racked up seven tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss against the Yellow Jackets, whose 243 rushing yards were 80 below their season average and well below their 411 last year in Athens.
Georgia Tech had just 34 passing yards through three quarters before finishing with 112.
"Garrison stepped up, and that's kind of the way it's been on our team all year," Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "I'm really happy with how he played, and I thought we did great overall. We held them to 10 points at half, and they had 10 points going into the fourth quarter.
"The most important thing is points allowed, and I thought our guys focused on the game plan we had and were focused on every snap with the way those guys block."
Linebackers Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones led the Bulldogs with 11 and eight tackles, respectively, and Jones got a sack in the game's final minute. The transfer from Southern Cal now has 13.5 sacks for the season, leaving him just shy of David Pollack's school standard of 14 from 2002.
"I think our scout team did a good job simulating it, but we still had to catch up a little bit as far as the speed with which they were running it," Jones said. "Our offense did a great job of putting points on the board and getting ahead and forcing them to throw, because that felt a whole lot better than defending all the tricky stuff they were doing."
John Jenkins, the junior college transfer who faced the triple-option for the first time as Georgia's nose man, had six tackles and two tackles for loss, including a sack.
When Georgia Tech fell behind 24-10 at the start of the third quarter and had to throw more, the Bulldogs feasted with interceptions by Michael Gilliard and Shawn Williams. Entering the fourth quarter, Tech had completed three passes to white jerseys and two passes to red jerseys.
"We were able to get off the field on third down early in the game and got some turnovers in the second half," Grantham said. "I felt like we pretty much controlled the game."