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A glorious day on The Flats

I’m not really sure where the name The Flats came from but it refers to Grant Field at Bobby Dodd Stadium on the campus of Georgia Tech. Bulldogs fans, who were there in force Saturday, refer to it as Mark Richt Field or The Joke By Coke. Richt never lost there, thus the first moniker. The historic stadium sits in the shadow of the huge Coca Cola building, thus the latter. Georgia fans deride the facility but I have always enjoyed going there. It is steeped in history and boasts a panoramic view of the Atlanta skyline. I also like it because Georgia almost always wins there. Saturday turned out to be warm and windy – unusual for the last day of November. It was a perfect day for football. The stadium hosted far more red-clad fans than gold. I would say it was 95% full with 70-75% of those in attendance being Georgia fans. It was obvious the operational personnel at the stadium were unprepared for a full house – a rarity in the facility. They ran out of water and ice in our section before halftime. They call this game ‘˜Good Old-Fashioned Hate’ and that’s how it went. It was a hard-hitting, trash talking affair that boiled over in the third quarter with an epic fight. Bulldog wide receiver Georgie Pickens, a freshman, missed the first half for a violation of team rules. He entered in the third period and had an immediate impact. He drew a pass interference call on Tech cornerback Tre Swilling. Then he caught a touchdown pass on a play in which he got wide open. On Georgia’s next drive, quarterback Jake Fromm threw right for a TD pass to Dominick Blalock, another freshman. On the left side, Pickens and Swilling brawled. Punches, rendered useless by football helmets, were thrown. Pickens finally took Swilling by the face mask and drove him headfirst into a brick wall, drawing an ejection. His coaches and teammates talked about how Pickens ‘˜has to control his emotions’ and ‘˜can’t get baited by trash talk’. Among UGA fans, he is now a legend – one of many to grow out of this old rivalry. As for the game itself, it was interesting. Tech kept it close for a half thanks to a fumble on a punt return and a horrid second quarter by the Dogs. The Tech fans were mostly gone by the end of the third quarter and the majority of the Dog faithful left when the score hit 45-7. The seats around me were largely empty as the game wound down and a member of the Georgia punt coverage unit recovered a Tech fumble in the end zone to make it 52-7. A stiff breeze blew discarded cups, napkins and food containers around as the the last seconds ran off the clock. I stayed until the end. We wait all year for college football season and then it goes by so fast. I wanted to savor the moment of the last regular season game and a big win over a hated rival. Looking south from my perch, the massive Mercedes Benz Stadium where Georgia will battle undefeated LSU this Saturday in the SEC Championship Game loomed on the horizon. That will be a classic battle between a high-powered offense and the country’s stingiest defense. The folks in Vegas favor LSU and that is no surprise. Almost all the talking heads have already written Georgia off. Still, it is an intriguing matchup and one wonders if Pickens will write another chapter in his legend. Tech’s season is over. Georgia’s is moving into the national spotlight. All is as it should be. We run this state!

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