Already in 1998, Kirby Smart was a senior security officer at Georgia and Brent key was a sophomore right guard at Georgia Tech. Fast-forward 24 years and the two will face off again – although this time they’ll be wearing headsets instead of helmets.
Smart’s Bulldogs hope to end the regular season on a high-profile Saturday when Georgia Tech comes to town under the stewardship of Key, who has been interim coach of the Yellow Jackets since Geoff Collins was fired on Sept. 26. Georgia Tech has had something of a resurgence under Key, as the Yellow Jackets have gone 4-3 over the top 25 opponents with two wins under the alum’s supervision.
Smart explained that he and Key are a long way behind in terms of their gaming careers, adding that the two have spent a number of summers together. Key was also Alabama’s offensive line coach when the Bulldogs faced the Crimson Tide in 2017 and 2018, and Smart credited Key with doing a good job during that time.
According to Smart, Georgia Tech has made several notable adjustments since Key stepped up as the program’s lead.
“They embrace his personality of toughness, don’t hit himself, are physical. You can tell they probably refined some things. He’s made some changes to the special teams,” Smart said. “You know, he played there, and when you have someone who played at that university, and that’s their alma mater, there’s a certain want, desire, to represent a university in the right way. You know, they won the first game and with him as head coach they beat two top 25 teams. You can see the emotion he had in the dressing room after Pitt’s win and how much it means to him.”
When Collins was fired, the Yellow Jackets were 1-3 on the season, and while the ride hasn’t been entirely smooth since, the roster has turned the corner with Key. Georgia Tech’s biggest accomplishment came last Saturday when it took to the streets to take on then-No. 13 North Carolina and held an offense averaging 505.5 yards per game on just 365 — including just 98 in the second half.
Smart noted that the Yellow Jackets started out a bit slow but got into a groove while playing aggressively and physically. The Bulldogs head coach pointed out that Georgia Tech held North Carolina to 17 points, which is the fewest the Tar Heels have since their 2021 season opener.
“They played really hard and did a great job defensively. They always have, you know?” Smart said, “Tech has good staff and the guys there know football. And you can see the kids are playing with a lot more passion and energy. They’re a game of the Bowl eligibility removed and you saw it in the results.” play against UNC.”
Georgia Tech’s recent surge has put the Yellow Jackets on the verge of bowl eligibility, but the Yellow Jackets are suffering their biggest upset yet to record six wins for the first time since 2018. It would also mark a drastic change in Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate, as Georgia have won five straight games in the rivalry and the last two encounters by a 97-7 aggregate score.
When asked if the Yellow Jackets needed a win to play bowling was even being discussed, Smart made it clear that that’s not exactly a focus for the Bulldogs.
“I mean, we’ll mention it, but it’s not about her. It’s about what we do,” Smart said.