Todd Gurley ran for 122 yards and three touchdowns, including two scores after regulation, and Georgia rallied after trailing by 20 points in the first half to beat Georgia Tech 41-34 in two overtimes Saturday night.
Gurley’s 25-yard touchdown run in the second and final overtime gave Georgia its first lead.
“We just kept fighting,” said Mason, a fourth-year junior who moved into the starting role after senior Aaron Murray’s season ended with a knee injury last week. “We came back and we just stuck together.”
Mason overcame a shaky first half in his first start to lead the comeback for Georgia (8-4), which has won 12 of 13 games in the series under Richt, including five straight.
Mason completed 22 of 36 passes for 299 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Vad Lee passed for a career-high 232 yards for Georgia Tech, but his fourth-down pass for Darren Waller was deflected by Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson and then batted out of the end zone by cornerback Damian Swann to end the game.
“That ball was up there for a while,” Wilson said. “I hit it as hard as I could trying to make a play to end this game. That’s all I was thinking, knock it down. I’m so proud of us for coming back from 20-0. We’re relentless. We never gave up.”
The comeback was the biggest for Georgia since it rallied from a 25-0 deficit to beat Purdue 28-25 in overtime in the 2000 Outback Bowl. Georgia rallied to take the lead after trailing by 20 points against Auburn on Nov. 16 but lost to the Tigers 43-38.
Georgia Tech (7-5) blew leads of 20-0 in the second quarter and 20-7 at halftime.
“It was a tough game,” said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson. “I was proud of our guys’ effort. It was a hard game to lose. It was a gut-wrenching game. It would have been for either side.”
Lee threw two touchdown passes to DeAndre Smelter as Georgia Tech, which usually emphasizes the run in its spread-option offense, instead attacked Georgia through the air. Lee completed 11 of 23 passes for 232 yards with two interceptions and had a 3-yard scoring run.
Georgia won the toss to start overtime and chose to play defense. Smelter ran for 12 yards on a reverse to help set up Lee’s scoring run from the 2.
Georgia answered with a strong dose of Gurley, who ran for 8, 11 and 6 yards on the Bulldogs’ quick three-play touchdown drive.
Georgia Tech then elected to play defense to start the second extra period. Gurley ran straight through the Georgia Tech defense for a 25-yard touchdown run and the Bulldogs’ first lead at 41-34.
Georgia Tech’s Robert Godhigh was tackled by Leonard Floyd for a loss of three yards to set up Lee’s incompletion on fourth-and-5 from the 6.
Georgia players then rushed the field, their dominance in the state rivalry intact.
“This was the kind of game I dreamed of being a part of. I’m so thankful for this opportunity,” Mason said
Georgia Tech did not have a turnover until Lee, throwing off his back foot, had his pass intercepted by Josh Harvey-Clemons in the fourth quarter. Clemons returned the ball 18 yards to the Yellow Jackets 25.
Johnson said the interception was a rare bad throw by Lee, who he said “had a really good game.”
“He got pressure on the interception and that was the only one that I could think of that was really a poor decision,” Johnson said.
Jeremiah Attaochu’s fourth sack of the game helped force Georgia to settle for Marshall Morgan’s 32-yard field goal for a 27-27 tie with 4:17 remaining.
Mason struggled through most of the first half and appeared tentative in some of his passing decisions.
Of Georgia’s 152 yards in the half, 86 yards came as Mason looked more comfortable running the 2-minute offense in the Bulldogs’ final drive. Mason completed each of his five passes on the drive, including back-to-back completions of 17 and 22 yards to Chris Conley.
Gurley scored on a 9-yard pass, taking off from about the 4-yard line and soaring with his body out of bounds but the ball stretched out over the corner at the goal line.
The drive established momentum that Georgia kept as its comeback continued in the third quarter.
“All we needed was that one touchdown to calm all the nerves,” Mason said.
“I think you saw after we scored the touchdown things started to just roll.”
Georgia lost senior defensive end Garrison Smith to a left ankle injury in the third quarter. Smith did not return.
Former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions watched the game from the Bulldogs’ sideline.