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Loran Smith: Rambo’s play against Tech a sweet spot in Bulldogs’ memory

In the early going last Saturday, Georgia Tech and its unconventional offense were causing the Bulldogs to fret as the Yellow Jackets had driven 83 yards down the field with the objective of tying the game 7-7. That possibility looked very likely.

Loran Smith: Rambo's play against Tech a sweet spot in Bulldogs' memory
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Suddenly, the Georgia defense caused the Georgia Tech sideline to wilt.

It was like going from sugar to compost. From optimism to agony. Punch it in there and the game is all even. You get a boost in confidence and you begin to believe that if your offense can move the ball and score points, then you have a shot at victory.

Baccari Rambo put a stop to that nonsense when he stole the ball from Tech running back Robert Godhigh near the goal line.

With a first-and-10 opportunity at the Georgia 20-yard line with 9:36 left in the first quarter, quarterback Tevin Washington had come down the line and pitched to Godhigh, who attracted a crowd of redshirts including Damian Swann, Alec Ogletree and Kwame Geathers. As a pileup began forming, Rambo appeared, reached in, and snatched the ball away and took off upfield, making it to 50-yard line. Georgia soon scored to go up 14-0.

This game-changing play was another of the big moments the defense had come up with in this bountiful— thus-far season. For a defense to be dominating, it has to have playmakers, and a championship team will usually have an abundance of them who can make a difference.

Rambo was the difference-maker versus Georgia Tech, which brought him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Rambo, who also intercepted a Georgia Tech pass — his 16th, which ties him with Jake Scott for the most in school history — forced two fumbles and tallied eight tackles. He now has 293 career interception return yards, which ranks him third behind Scott and (315) and Scott Woerner (303).

Rambo, Rambo, where you been?

In the offense’s hair, gonna do it again!

That might not rank with the best of Bulldoggerel, but when a defensive back makes a nuisance of himself, it usually bodes well for the success of the team. Disruptive players on defense — and Rambo is proving to be one of the best in recent Georgia history — inspires teammates on both sides of the ball.

The first fumble steal and scoring return I remember came against Kentucky in Sanford Stadium in 1958. Pat Dye, the All-American guard, did something similar to Rambo. Georgia, after a touchdown, kicked off to the Wildcats. When a pileup ensued at the 28-yard line, the ball carrier began losing his grip on the ball. The alert Dye saw what was happening and took it away and returned it for a 28-yard touchdown.

Linebacker Bill Krug, who lettered in 1975-77, was the first Bulldog who became expert at literally defining the term take-away. He would often grab a ball carrier around the neck with one hand and reach around with the other and jerk the ball out of the ball carrier’s grasp. Now you see that happening everywhere on every level of football.

Of course, the player who was the most spectacular ever with the sack-and-steal maneuver was David Pollack (2001-04). Even when Pollack is a graybeard, video replays of his stealing the ball from quarterback Corey Jenkins against South Carolina in 2002 for a touchdown will remain prominent in Georgia history. To prove that it was no fluke, Pollack pulled off the trick again in the Outback Bowl in 2004 in Tampa.

As the Bulldogs bask in the glory of defeating Tech, the principal flashback is reserved for Rambo and his picture-perfect steal on the ball against the Yellow Jackets.

There is no ranking of such plays, but the most passionate of Georgia fans would probably rank it as the “sweetest” for the moment. It is the one which currently rests most prominently in the forefront of everyone’s memory.

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