Louise Austin was the sort of grandmother who was always there. Basketball games, track meets, football games. Growing up in Barnesville, her twin grandsons Lance and Lawrence Austin knew they could count on her to be there to support them.
Even when cancer waged its battle on her body and required hospitalization, Lance Austin said, she still came out to watch him and his twin brother.
“I know she was looking down on us (Saturday),” Lance Austin said Saturday night following Georgia Tech’s wild 22-16 win over No. 9 Florida State at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Grandma Louise is never far from his mind. After Austin crossed the goal line with the game-winning touchdown, having returned a blocked field goal 78 yards for a game-ending touchdown in one of the most improbable and memorable victories in school history, he took a knee.
“I kind of just looked up to the sky, and I was like, That’s for my grandmother Louise,’” Austin said.
Louise Austin died last December 29 at the age of 67. It was two days before Tech’s appearance in the Orange Bowl, a game that both the Austin twins decided they would play because that is what she would have wanted, Lance said.
Saturday, Austin had written “RIP Louise” on his sleeve. He and Lawrence, both sophomore defensive backs, try to make some sort of similar dedication for each game. They both shaved their heads earlier this season in tribute.
She would have had a lot to cheer for Saturday night. Lance played far more snaps than expected after starting cornerback D.J. White missed the game with injury, and his replacement, Step Durham, also left the game with injury. He made two tackles, including a key stop helping bring down FSU running back Dalvin Cook on the final drive, when he and Jamal Golden were likely the last line of defense between Cook and the goal line.
Lawrence made a career-high six tackles and made one of the plays of the game. He broke up a fourth-quarter pass into the end zone on a third-and-goal play from the 10-yard line that ricocheted into the air and was intercepted by Golden – the first turnover for the FSU offense of the entire season after 438 turnover-free snaps.
It all set up Austin’s stunning touchdown return, which followed Patrick Gamble’s block of Roberto Aguayo’s 56-yard field-goal try to win the game for FSU. Austin hesitated before picking up the loose ball at the Tech 22, remembering coaches’ instruction encouraging them to pick up a blocked field goal only at the end of a half.
“I was kind of aware of the scenario,” he said. “I just picked it up.”
He ran towards the Tech sideline, turned upfield and found an open expanse of Grant Field ahead of him and a slew of teammates ready to escort him to the end zone.
“When I came around (the corner), it was a wall,” he said. “My teammates did a great job of blocking, so when I came around and I kind of got by Aguayo, I got in the end zone. It was kind of surreal.”
As Austin approached the goal line, he was joined by his twin brother, also in on the play, and they crossed into the end zone together, sending Bobby Dodd Stadium into joyful bedlam.
“He said, ‘Grandma’s looking down on us, and you did it for her,’” Lance Austin said. “And I did.”