ATHENS - The Georgia Tech players gathered in front of their small contingent of fans in a corner of Sanford Stadium. They sang the 'Ramblin' Wreck' fight song. They bounced up and down. Then pinched off pieces of the famous hedge that surrounds the field.
This was a celebration eight years in the making.
The Yellow Jackets unleashed their triple-option offense on Georgia with devastating results Saturday. Roddy Jones rushed for a career-best 214 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Jonathan Dwyer ran for 144 and two scores of his own. When it was done, No. 18 Georgia Tech had overcome a 16-point halftime deficit to stun the 13th-ranked Bulldogs 45-42, its first win in the series since 2000.
'Growing up, all I heard about was how great Georgia was,' said Jones, a redshirt freshman. 'It's great to be part of a team that ends the streak.'
The cold, rainy day wasn't a total victory for the visiting team: Virginia Tech denied the Yellow Jackets a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game with a 17-14 victory over Virginia.
But Georgia Tech (9-3) celebrated anyway after seven straight losses to the Bulldogs, lingering on the field long after Georgia headed off to the warmth of its locker room. Several players had sprigs of the Sanford hedge between their teeth, clearly satisfied to have far exceeded expectations for coach Paul Johnson's first season.
'This overshadows everything,' wingback Lucas Cox said. 'We weren't that disheartened (about losing the ACC Coastal Division on a tiebreaker). It would have been nice to have that complement this win.'
Johnson passed on breaking off a piece of hedge for himself. Instead, he showed the sort of swagger that will clearly add some spark to what had been a one-sided series.
'I figured I'd be back,' he said. 'Act like you think you're going to win.'
Georgia (9-3) started the year No. 1 but will likely settle for a spot in the Capital One Bowl - far, far short of its goal of at least competing for a Southeastern Conference title, and maybe even a national championship.
'Nobody thought we would be in this position at the beginning of the season,' linebacker Rennie Curran said. 'It was all high hopes. But things didn't work out the way we wanted to.'
After building a 28-12 halftime lead, the Bulldogs simply had no answer for Georgia Tech's unique offense, which piled up 409 yards on the ground.
'They do what they do. That's what they've been going all year. That's what Paul has been doing for years,' Georgia coach Mark Richt said. 'It stretches you from sideline to sideline.'
Jones averaged 16.5 yards per carry - a school record - and broke a couple of tackles on a decisive 54-yard touchdown run down the sideline midway through the fourth quarter. Dwyer had a 60-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, turning the momentum in Georgia Tech's favor.
'People punch you in the mouth and you've got to punch them back,' Yellow Jackets' senior Darryl Richard said. 'A lot of punchers can't handle being punched back."