The Citadel knobs in the upper deck of Bobby Dodd Stadium jumped up and down in celebration. Bulldogs players hopped the brick wall and flooded into the stands to hug family and friends. And coach Brent Thompson sprinted across the field like a man years younger.
"There were a lot of doubters out there, but we had no doubt!" Thompson yelled into a TV camera. "We played with grit today!"
The Citadel's Jacob Godek booted a 37-yard field goal in overtime and The Citadel won for the first time over an ACC foe, upsetting 27-point favorite Georgia Tech, 27-24, on Saturday in Atlanta.
The Citadel (1-2) had been 0-10 against Georgia Tech, 0-22 against ACC teams, and 8-50 all-time against FBS squads. The Bulldogs' last win over an FBS team was a 23-22 shocker at South Carolina in 2015.
And a sweet bonus: The Citadel will bring home a check for $400,000 from Georgia Tech.
"Bulldogs win! Bulldogs win! It's over!" Citadel slotback Keyonte Sessions shouted in a chaotic locker room. On Twitter, slotback Remus Bulmer quoted a Georgia Tech player: "Ya'll really think ya'll gonna beat us?"
Somehow, Thompson — who had seen his team lose two one-score games to FCS playoff contenders Towson and Elon to start the season — was confident.
"We really needed this one," Thompson said. "And it was one of those games that I felt it, and I knew the whole time we'd win, just from the way our kids responded."
It was the Jackets' first loss to an FCS team since Tech fell to Furman, 17-14, in 1983, and a staggering blow to coach Geoff Colllins' rebuilding effort. The irony, of course — Georgia Tech lost to a triple-option offense the same year it abandoned former coach Paul Johnson's triple option.
"It's going to look bad and I've got to imagine I'm going to look bad, and that's fine," Collins said after the game. "I can take it. I understand what this program is going to look like. I understand what this program is going to be. I'm proud of these guys, how hard they're fighting to make it happen."
The Citadel won with starting quarterback Brandon Rainey, who rushed for 70 yards and a score and threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Raleigh Webb, hobbled on the sideline. He injured a knee in the fourth quarter when a Tech player grabbed his facemask with the Bulldogs up 21-14.
Rainey's injury seemed a turning point. Tech's Brandon Mason ran for a 25-yard TD to tie it up at 21 with 7:29 left.
But with backup QB Brian Murdaugh from Colleton Prep at the controls, the Bulldogs drove 45 yards in 11 plays for Godek's 47-yard field goal and a 24-21 lead with 1:51 left.
"Brian stepped in and was a man," Rainey said of his backup. "For him to get thrown into that situation for his first real snaps is awesome. I couldn't be more proud of him."
A 52-yard kickoff return by Jackets QB Tobias Oliver set up a 34-yard field goal as time ran out to force overtime.
In the extra period, Citadel defensive lineman Aaron Brawley blew up a handoff, and Joseph Randolph II came through with a sack. That forced Tech to try a 46-yard field goal that missed badly and set the stage for Godek's game-winner.
"We don't win that game unless they go backwards there," Thompson said. "It's a cardinal mistake to go backwards in overtime but we were able to get a couple of negative yardage plays, and that was phenomenal."
Godek, who had missed earlier from 50 yards, made field goals of 47 and 37 yards in the final 1:51.
"The first kick, I kind of rushed," he said. "I didn't look at the clock and that's all on me. After that, I corrected myself and nailed the next two.
"It's an unbelievable feeling. I'm so happy for the guys, especially Brandon Rainey. He busts his butt 24/7 and I've never seen a kid work so hard. This game was for him, to thank him for everything he does."
The Citadel's offensive line, manhandled in the 35-28 loss at Elon, paved the way for 350 rushing yards as the Bulldogs outgained Tech, 350 to 301, and hogged the ball for 41 minutes and 50 seconds.
Fullback Clay Harris ran for 93 yards on 28 carries. He and Rainey were particularly tough on third down as The Citadel converted 8 of 16.
"We did a good job of leaning on them, leaning and leaning," Thompson said. "We tried to wear them out and just stay on the field. That was a bit of a statement by our offensive line. They were in good shape and good condition and were in control all day."
Evoking memories of last year's 10-10 halftime tie at No. 1 Alabama, The Citadel controlled the first half for a 14-6 lead at intermission.
Citadel slotback Nkem Njoku sparked a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 25-yard run, and Rainey found a wide-open Webb for a 30-yard TD pass and a 7-0 lead with 5:56 left in the first quarter.
Georgia Tech switched quarterbacks, inserting Tobias Oliver, who ripped off runs of 20 and 19 yards to set up Mason's 4-yard TD. But Tech missed the extra point, leaving The Citadel ahead 7-6 with 12:49 left in the first half.
The Citadel asserted control with a 13-play, 67-yard drive that chewed 5:15 off the clock. Njoku ran for 11 yards and Dante Smith took a pitch for 8 yards before Smith scored on a 12-yard run off an option pitch with 15 seconds left in the half.
Smith was spun in the air as he crossed the goal line, but replay confirmed the TD and the Bulldogs led, 14-6, at the half.
The Bulldogs host Charleston Southern next week before beginning Southern Conference play Sept. 28 at Samford.
"This was huge for us," Godek said. "To beat an ACC team like this, there's no team in FCS we can't beat."