Georgia Tech – Notre Dame: A Bigger Deal Than You Might Think

Great, Georgia Tech.

What am I supposed to make of a team that can’t even settle on a mascot? Is it the Ramblin’ Wreck or the Yellow Jackets? I think the latter is the official mascot, which is unfortunate. Because it sucks. It’s in the damn song, people: I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech, and a hell of an Engineer…A Helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva Engineer. Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear. I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an Engineer.

You’re ramblin’ wrecks. Not a freaking bumblebee. You sound like the PC marketing gurus at Notre Dame who’ve quietly over the years tried to minimize the leprechaun logo or take the word “Fighting” out of “Irish.” You’re whiskey-drinking engineers. We’re fighting (and whiskey-drinking) Irishmen. Embrace the stereotypes!

Before the Georgia Tech upset of the Miami Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl last year—even some 15 years after we last played, I still celebrate a Hurricane loss with the same intensity and passion as I cheered the collapse of the slightly-less-evil Soviet Union—my last memory of Georgia Tech was that ‘99 Gator Bowl loss. I don’t remember that game so much, but rather the ‘98 Irish team that could have been.

Consider our ‘98 roster. There was Jarious Jackson under center, the greatest dual-threat QB in ND history. Autry Denson, ND’s all-time leading rusher, was in our backfield. Current 49ers wideout Arnaz Battle was our backup QB. Former-Packers-now-Rams #2 running back Tony Fisher was our backup TB. Three-time Super Bowl champion David Givens was only good enough to be our offense’s…#3 receiver. Look up and down the ’98 depth chart and you’ll see names of recent ND lore: Petitgout, Rosenthal, Holloway, Bobbie Brown, Getherall, Minor, Denman, Weaver, Irons, even Hunter Smith.

But we all know what happened. ND was leading LSU at home 39-35 with the final seconds ticking off the the clock. Backed up against their own goalline, “Coach” Davie told starting QB Jarious Jackson to take the safety. (Note: he did not tell him to walk out the back of the endzone.) With the final seconds ticking off the clock, Jackson stood in the pocket as an LSU defender proceeded to eviscerate Jackson’s right knee.

Final score: ND 39 – LSU 37 – Jarious Jackson One Severely Sprained Knee.

The Irish went to Los Angeles ranked #9 in the country armed with two greenhorn QBs (one a true freshman with a sprained shoulder, the other a year and a couple scalped tickets away from being a free safety for Div I-AA Alabama A&M), and they lost to a hapless Trojan squad 10-0. (You GT fans think the Gator Bowl was a fair fight? Jarious Jackson didn’t practice full speed for the first time until the day after Christmas…five days before the Gator Bowl.) With mere seconds to go in the LSU game on November 21, 1998, most people considered ND a lock for a BCS bowl. They were about to go 9-1 and crack the AP Top 10. Earlier in the season they’d beaten the defending national champion Michigan Wolverines by 16. And then Jackson went down, and ND never won another game that season.

Then again…

What if Jackson walks out of the back of that endzone? What if ND runs the table, wins its BCS bowl, and finishes the season in the Top 5 with an 11-1 record? Would Davie still be our HC? I guess there’s a silver lining in this after all.

Do I remember that Gator Bowl loss as anything more than a blurry epilogue to a tragic season? Nope. Given Georgia Tech’s inexperienced secondary, had I (at least initially) harbored a whole lot of interest in this year’s ND-GT matchup? Nope.

Yeah, Holtz did say it was going to be the most pivotal game of the year. And yeah, the Georgia Tech AD allegedly guaranteed a GT win on some obscure radio show. But we’re talking three of four GT d-backs making their first starts ever against Quinn and Co. We’re talking a secondary that is going to try to double up on Shark, meanwhile leaving some guy by the name of Rhema McKnight open. You remember him, right? The guy who led the Irish in catches his sophomore and junior years. The guy Samardzija and Stovall used to look up to on the depth chart. The guy listed on the back cover of the ‘04 media guide as an “All-American candidate.” The guy who Coach Weis will likely put on a strict diet of Gatorade and raw meat come Georgia Tech week.

I know: our LBs are undersized, Ball is one of those “athletic type” QBs that can kill us, look what they did to Auburn and Miami last year, CJ CJ CJ, blah blah blah, yakkity yak, don’t talk back. Just shut up and pass me the kool-aid, because barring a supremely emotional GT team that can somehow manage to hang around past the second quarter, or a QB who can hit the side of a barn (standing inside the barn), or a Calvin Johnson that truly is equal to or bigger than the hype, I just don’t see this game being that close.

So, where does that leave me? Prediction time? Nah. Too predictable. Rather, let’s play a game. We’ll call it Six Degrees of the Ramblin’ Irishmen. The trick is to find the Georgia Tech-Notre Dame connection. It’s easier than you might think

For example…

Rudy – In the movie Rudy, Georgia Tech was of course the opponent who couldn’t protect its QB from a “five foot nuthin’, a hundred an nuthin’, hardly got a speck of ath-uh-leh-tic ability” defensive end, nor could they defend against the Vince Vaughn-led Irish passing attack. “I was first team All-State. I can put the ball anywhere I want to. I’ll make it rain out here.” Apparently so, Vince. Apparently so.

Ned Beatty – Somewhat related to the point above, in that Ned Beatty played Rudy’s father. But more importantly, Beatty also played the iconic role of Bobby Tripp, the mild-mannered, pudgy heart and soul (and anus) of the movie Deliverance—a movie that was shot entirely on location in Georgia. I’m told some scenes were shot on GT’s campus, but I can’t find any documentation to substantiate that. However, if you look closely in a couple scenes, you’ll see Burt Reynold’s car does have a front license plate that clearly says—you guessed it—Georgia Tech.

Bear Bryant – The movie The Bear, an ’84 biography of Alabama coach Paul Bear Bryant, was shot largely on Georgia Tech’s campus. Bear Bryant once famously remarked, “When I die, they’ll put on my tombstone, ‘He Never Beat Notre Dame’.” This is a quote I’d recommend using regularly in any Birmingham or Montgomery bar, second only to “Abraham Lincoln Is Alabama’s Daddy,” in respect to the unbridled ass beating it will afford you and your Yankee friends.

The Program – In this beyond-cliché crapfest of a movie, James Caan is the coach of Eastern State University, a barely-veiled Florida State clone. In the movie ESU defeats GT, while at the same exact time in the real world circa 1993 Notre Dame was dethroning the #1 Noles (albeit briefly thanks to Boston College and the Great Irish Poll Shafting of ’93 by the coaches and media). Since then the Irish have been playing the Noles off an on. And with their ACC affiliation I’m sure FSU is not too far behind UGA on the GT faithful’s Most Hated list. It’s a Florida school. I understand. It’s like hating evil. It just comes naturally. There are schools that do things the right way, and those schools take notes from watching Notre Dame. Then there are schools that do things the wrong way, and they’re awed by the length and breadth of the Florida schools’ rap sheets. (These holier-than-thou comments is what we call in the blogsphere “baiting”. My objective is to get the anti-ND bloggers all red-faced and blustery. First they will claim “you ND guys are just like everybody else” when in fact ND’s graduation rates and required curriculum of its STUDENT-athletes suggest differently. Their off-the-cuff attacks will then most likely move on to incorporate some combination of a retread Under the Tarnished Dome reference or any of the newer, even-less-intelligent pedophilic priest or “Ty deserved five years” barbs. Message to the ND haters of the world: get some new material.)

George O’Leary – Yeah, if I have to explain this one…

Nine – Notre Dame has a 26-5-1 all-time record versus Georgia Tech dating back to 1922. These 32 games mark the ninth-longest rivalry in ND history behind only Navy (79), USC (77), Purdue (77), Michigan State (69), Pitt (63), Army (48), Northwestern (47), and Michigan (33). It is the longest rivalry ND has maintained with any Southern team by far, as the Irish have played Georgia Tech more times than Miami, Florida State, Florida and Georgia combined.

You know what? This IS a decent game. And Georgia Tech IS a decent rival. Strap on the chinstraps, boys, ‘cause the Irish are coming to Atlanta. Save some of that clear whiskey for me, preferably distilled with a little bit of those fresh Georgia peaches. (My grandfather grew up in the hills of southern Kentucky. I know what clear “whiskey” is.)


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  1. I’ve been to 4 games with John over the years some great ones! And I’ll be joining him on his epic jreonuy a couple oftimes to catch some more games! Cal at Oregon, Oct. 6 andVirg. Tech at Georgia Tech, Nov. 10. Woo hoo!

  2. You are right, we can’t make up our minds about a mascot:

    Golden Tornados – 1929 Rose Bowl Champs

    Ramblin’ Wreck – A real auto race (jalopys) run from Atlanta to Athens yearly until it became too dangerous. Still run during homecoming, Frats and other organizations build contraptions that somehow make it through the crowd without death and dismemberment.

    Yellow Jackets – It is a PC thing. 10 years ago the Administration tried to downplay Wreck for Yellow Jackets, didn’t work. Pressured Jefferson Pilot Teleproductions not to show the car. Fans rioted!!

    The real Wreck is a 1930 Ford A Model Sports Coupe bought for $1,000 by the Dean of Students to give the boys (all boys at that time) something to rally around. The Eastern Pilot who sold the car to GT gave the money back later so he could say he “donated” the car. The Alumni Association also has a beautiful ’30 or ’31 Roadster, and the Ford plant in Hapeville Georgia restored another ’30 Sports Coupe for a fundraiser in the mid-80’s (winner gave the car back to the school).

    I guess we are like so many teams:

    Alabama-Red Elephants, Athletics, Crimson Tide?
    Auburn – War Eagles, Tigers?
    Virginia – Cavs or Wahoos? Well that really doesn’t count.
    UNC – Tar Heels or Rams?

    The list goes on and on, but in the end it is College Football and it is THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!

    My favorite memory is the 1980 game, that Saturday is considered by many THE most important day for Football in the State of Georgia.

    The Atlanta paper had it “Tech beats Notre Dame 3-3”. Tech never threw a pass. Knocked ND out of #1 and UGA (who beat Temple that day?) went on to win the Sugar Bowl and the National Championship. These Bulldogs think that was the last National Championship in the state (GT, 1990 co champs with Colorado the year of the notorious “5th down” play by the Buffs.

    The game was great, our noise in the first half seemed to rattle Mr. Quinn, but the better team won… now if we had only gone for it on 4th down…who knows!

    Love to see two storied teams (with great looking helmets/uniforms) play such a great game.

    Let do it again soon, your place or ours doesn’t matter.

    3rd verse….

    “Wish I had a barrel of Rum and Sugar, 3000 pounds
    a College Bell to put it in and a clapper to stir it around
    I’d drink to all the good fellows who come from far and near
    I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech and a Helluva Engineer!”

  3. I was at the 01/01/99 Gator Bowl. That memory will be my mantra as I watch on Saturday evening.

    The thing that fired up the Jackets was reading that some NDers did not think that playing Georgia Tech on New Year’s Day in the Gator Bowl was worthy of wearing the green jerseys.

  4. First, but not foremost, The Program was an awesome movie. I wasn’t looking for any Oscar winners in that one, but I got what I expected, a look into the Florida State Creminole football program.
    You’re lil stroll down memory lane, with Jarious messing his knee up was nice to read. I hadn’t thought of that in awhile and would have preferred not to, but oh well, mny shrink says to properly deal with post-traumatic stress disorder from the “davie era” I need to remember and accept his ineptitude. So thank you for your help there.

    Now, I am truly excited for this opening game. It is not a cakewalk like most schools play and it is not at home. I commend the Irish and look forward to watching Brady’s 4-TD performance (minimum).


  5. You mentioned Tech’s defense is suspect in the secondary. That is the only place they are weak on defense. And if you can’t run the ball, Brady Quinn won’t have a chance to pass because he’ll be on his back all night. Did you forget that Notre Dame’s defense couldn’t stop your grandmother last year? And Notre Dame has those same bad players back this year…not to mention Bill Lewis (who led Tech to a 1 and 10 season in 1995) as Assistant Head Coach in charge of defense. Good luck in Atlanta. It’s not gonna be easy like you think.

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