King has breakthrough game vs. Tech

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

ATLANTA -- This was the running game Georgia had been waiting for all season.

It was also the Caleb King that Bulldog fans have been waiting for throughout his nearly three seasons with the Bulldogs.

The former Greater Atlanta Christian and Parkview standout and freshman Washaun Ealey proved to be the perfect 1-2 punch in a breakout game for a much-maligned Bulldogs' running game.

And that running game turned out to be perhaps the biggest key in Georgia's 30-24 upset of then-No. 7 Georgia Tech on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Both King (166 yards, two touchdowns on 18 carries) and Ealey (20-183) posted career highs as Georgia (7-5) rolled up 339 yards on the ground to beat Tech (10-2) at its own game.

"I never would have predicted that," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said of his running game's dominance. "I know we wanted to run the ball. I know we wanted to control the clock as much as possible."

Indeed, while the Tech option game, which ranks in the top five in the nation in rushing offense, got its yards -- 205 of them to be exact -- it was the Georgia running game that made the difference.

It was a performance that couldn't have come at a better time for the Bulldogs -- especially for both King and Ealey, who had the words "I run this state" written on their biceps and on the tape underneath each eye.

Georgia's running game had averaged only 4.3 yards per carry and scored just 12 touchdowns this season, with Ealey leading the team with a mere 456 yards and three scores.

But the Bulldogs averaged 7.7 yards per carry Saturday night and the big nights by both Ealey and King not only helped them place two running backs with more than 100 yards in one game since a win over Vanderbilt in 2004, it was also the most rushing yards for any Georgia team since Richt took over in 2001.

"It was just a great feeling coming out running the ball and getting better," Ealey said. "The offensive line, they were just grinding it out the whole game. All those boys did a great job."

But as much as they big night meant for Ealey and the Bulldogs as a whole, it was perhaps an even bigger shot in the arm for King.

His 75-yard touchdown run may have been the biggest play of the game, which made the score 24-10 with 13:08 left in the third quarter.

It came just one play after Tech had seemingly gained momentum on Demaryius Thomas' 76-yard touchdown reception from Josh Nesbitt and kept the pressure off the Bulldogs.

"After Bay Bay (Thomas) made that catch for a touchdown, I knew we had to score or they were going to come back with that momentum," King said. "I put it upon myself to try to make a great play."

The 5-foot-11, 210-pounder had struggled since coming to Georgia, redshirting his first season and then running for just 615 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons since.

It was a long way from the expectations that had him ranked at the head of a stellar recruiting class of running backs that included Tech's Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones.

Both Dwyer and Jones had passed him by in terms of production since the beginning of their college careers, especially after the two combined for 358 yards and four TDs in the Yellow Jackets' 45-42 win a year ago.

But Saturday, King lived up to his billing, setting the career bests in yards and longest run and tying personal bests with 18 carries and two TDs, while Dwyer and Jones combined for just 70 yards and one score.

"I've been waiting for this for three years," said King, who topped the 100-yard mark in a game for the first time in his college career. "It's about time I had a bust-out game. ... Right after the game, Jonathan Dwyer came to me and said, 'That was the old Caleb King we saw out there,' and I thank him for that."