ATLANTA — Georgia assistant coach Rodney Garner prepared Garrison Smith to play at every spot along the defensive line this past week in practice.
Two plays into the Bulldogs 31-17 win over Georgia Tech, an ankle injury to defensive end DeAngelo Tyson pushed Smith into the game in an every-down role.
“I was like, ‘I gotta go — the moment has come,’ ” Smith said. “I was real nervous.”
Smith, a sophomore from nearby Douglass High, finished with a career-best seven total tackles, including 1 1/2 for loss.
“I thought Garrison came in and stepped up,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “We’ve had a lot of guys do that. That’s kind of our team. I’m really proud of his efforts and the way he played. I thought he helped us execute the gameplan and control the game.”
The Yellow Jackets were held to 4.3 yards per carry in the second half and converted just 7 of 16 third downs in the game. With Tyson relegated to crutches for the rest of the contest, Smith’s push from the end was a constant aid in the effort to slow a rushing attack that entered ranked second nationally.
“You have to do your assignments,” Smith said. “Thanks to the coaches — they got us prepared all week, and we were ready for it.”
The game had increased meaning for Smith because his brother Greg was a member the Georgia Tech team that beat the Bulldogs in 2008.
For Smith, playing time wasn’t new. He’s appeared in every game this season and made at least one tackle in eight contests. Being such a factor on every down and in his hometown made the breakout moment more meaningful.
And Garner was setting Smith up for it all this week — just in case.
“He was like, ‘Garrison, you know you’re the first one to go in if anything happens.’ ” Smith said. “Last year, I didn’t play at all. This year, on every down I was thinking it was my time to go.”
DOGS HUNKER DOWN FOR MUNSON: Just about every angle in Bobby Dodd Stadium had a touch of Larry Munson on Saturday.
Georgia players wore a helmet decal appropriately depicting Munson, who passed away at 89 last Sunday, doing what he did best — speaking into a headset.
“To go out and win against Tech this week, that’s a big one,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
There was a tribute to Munson on Tech’s video scoreboard prior to the game. And the Georgia marching band ended its halftime set by spelling out Munson and playing, “Glory to Old Georgia.”
For Bobo, who played at Georgia from 1993-97, the timing of the victory added more to a game that already came with plenty of significance.
“Growing up in Georgia and having both parents graduating from Georgia, we listened to Larry Munson on Saturday afternoons with the television down and listening to the radio,” Bobo said. “Coming here and having the chance to play and him calling some of the plays that we made when I was a player — it’s just special. He is Georgia football.”
BUTLER BACK AT IT: Georgia punter Drew Butler wasn’t needed in the first half as the Bulldogs scored on three of three four possessions and turned the ball over once.
Butler has grown accustomed to standing around on the sideline early in games this season. Two weeks ago against Auburn, Butler didn’t play in the opening half. His lone punt in the second half was a flop — landing out of bounds after traveling only 16 yards.
His performance in the second half against Georgia Tech saw a different result. The senior averaged 44.5 yards on three punts, including one kick downed 55 yards away.
“It was just a bomb and really changed the field position and momentum,” coach Mark Richt said.
Two of the three punts were downed inside the Georgia Tech 10-yard line, as Georgia Tech struggled to gain yards backed up in its own territory.
“Their punter hit some great punts,” Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said. “The field position game is not as we would have liked.”
HOSPITAL VISIT HITS CLOSE TO HOME: Georgia players visited Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Shepard Center on Friday.
The trip has become an annual tradition prior to the Georgia Tech game, but this year the visit hit close to home.
Kasyn Olivadotti, the 4-year-old daughter of linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti, was treated at Children’s Healthcare for leukemia in the summer.
“I got to walk around the hospital with coach (Olivadotti) to see many of the people who were neighbors to Kasyn there,” junior linebacker Christian Robinson said. “They were in their own community and were going through the same situation.”
Kasyn is currently back at home and in remission. Robinson and fellow linebacker Kosta Vavlas spent as much time as possible greeting as many people as they could.
“Knowing that we made many of those patients smile and perk up when normally they’re really down made the trip worth it,” Robinson said. “It was the parents’ faces when their children smiled that coach (Olivadotti) told us was the tell-tale sign that we had made a difference.”
THIS AND THAT: A 21-yard rush in the third quarter by Zander Ogletree marked the first carry by a Georgia fullback this season. “Got them off guard, didn’t we?” Richt said, laughing. … Cornerback Brandon Boykin’s 60-yard kickoff return in the second half moved him into second in the SEC for career kickoff return yards. … Redshirt freshman tailback Ken Malcome made the first start of his career. … The game was a sellout — Georgia Tech’s second of the year.