Georgia earns respect in defeat, but loss not easy to take

Georgia's Kenarious Gates drops to a knee as Georgia lost SEC championship on last play of game. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Kenarious Gates drops to a knee as Georgia lost SEC title on game's final play. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

This was the day when representatives from every other conference, when every critic weary of the SEC’s six-year-plus rule in college football, should have come to the realization, “Oh. So that’s why they’re the best.”

Georgia and Alabama looked like the two best teams from the two best conference, if not the two best teams in the nation, and they just played a conference championship that saw four lead changes in the second half and the game not decided until the game’s final play.

What would happen if Georgia and Alabama played 10 times?

“It probably would look like that every game,” Bulldogs wide receiver Tavarres King said. “And there would be several different outcomes.”

Georgia doesn’t have that luxury. The Dogs lost the SEC championship game 32-28 at the Georgia Dome. They came that close to playing for a national championship.

They had a chance at the end, with quarterback Aaron Murray having driven the team from its own 28 to the Alabama 8 with 15 seconds left. At that point, we can debate whether Murray should have spiked the ball to reset the offense. But suffice to say, the game ended with a tipped pass that was caught at Tide’s 5, the final seconds ticked off and one team celebrated its impending berth in the BCS championship game while the other collapsed in exhaustion, uncertain of its bowl status.

The irony here was that Georgia probably gained more respect in defeat than in any of its 11 victories. The Dogs were criticized for a perceived soft schedule, for the way they were physically hammered be South Carolina, for the hiccups at Kentucky.

Yet on Saturday, even the opposing coach, Nick Saban, was moved to comment: “I think it’s a crying shame if Georgia doesn’t get to go to a BCS bowl game. That game came down to the last play. It’s ridiculous. Some teams are 7-5 and talking about winning their conference and going to a BCS bowl game? Something’s not right here.”

So yes, the Dogs proved their worthiness on this day.

Coach Mark Richt has made the program relevant again in the SEC, and therefore on the national scale.

Afterward, Richt said, “I told them I was disappointed. But I wasn’t disappointed in them.”

That said, Georgia lost to a better team.

Alabama was the superior team physically. The Tide rushed for 350 yards, led by Eddie Lacy (187) and T.J. Yeldon (154). The physical domination started with the Tide’s offensive line taking over the game in the second half, blowing open holes in Georgia’s defensive front. It continued with the Dogs, clearly worn down and drained, began to miss tackles.

“[The defense] got tired of being run against — I could figure that one out,” Richt said. “We just got knocked off the ball.”

At some point, it figured Alabama would try to get Georgia to bite on play-action, and that’s exactly what happened. With the Dogs leading 28-25, Alabama had a first down at the Georgia 45 when quarterback A.J. McCarron faked a handoff, stepped back and hit wide receiver Amari Cooper streaking down the left sideline, behind cornerback Damian Swann. The touchdown put Alabama, which once trailed 21-10, up 32-28 with just over three minutes left.

The Dogs had two more chances. They went three-and-out on one possession and quickly had to punt. They used their last two time outs during Alabama’s possession but forced the Tide to give up the ball one more time. They got the ball back with 1:08 remaining.

“We’ve had plenty of one-minute drives during the season so it’s not like guys were freaking out or anything,” Murray said later. “We were just like, ‘Let’s play ball.”

On the fourth play of the drive, Murray had a pass tipped and intercepted at midfield. But he and the team got a reprieve when the play was reversed by replay, which showed the ball hitting the ground. The quarterback then completed consecutive passes to Arthur Lynch, King and Lynch again. The ball was now at the eight with about 15 seconds remaining.

Richt decided to keep going and not have Murray spike the ball to stop the clock. “Even spiking the ball takes time,” Richt said. “We had a play called.”

The play was  fade route to Malcolm Mitchell at the back of the end zone. But there were only nine seconds left when the ball was snapped, Murray’s pass was tipped at the line and Chris Conley caught it in traffic at the five (first instinct). He was buried and time ran out.

Richt: “In that play you want a touchdown or an incomplete pass.”

In between is trouble. In between ended the game. Georgia was that close going to the national championship game. That’s something they will have to live with.

By Jeff Schultz

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754 comments Add your comment

Jeff

December 1st, 2012
9:46 pm

FIRST! Proud of the DAWGS! Great effort and looking foward to the bowl and next season!

I'm a Georgia fan. It's a license to be stupid.

December 1st, 2012
9:47 pm

first…no way

SEC Football Expert

December 1st, 2012
9:47 pm

GA fan here. We gave a great effort in a great game, but the best team won

I'm a Georgia fan. It's a license to be stupid.

December 1st, 2012
9:48 pm

name says it all…

Dog Island Gator

December 1st, 2012
9:48 pm

Yes they will

TDone

December 1st, 2012
9:49 pm

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. ROLL TIDE!!!

Lon Stotts

December 1st, 2012
9:50 pm

Some things are just things

chuck

December 1st, 2012
9:50 pm

Bama tried to give the game to UGA and yall still lost.

I'm a Georgia fan. It's a license to be stupid.

December 1st, 2012
9:50 pm

can’t critisize the non-spike…Bama was on their heels, just wasn’t the dawgs nite…

ALUM

December 1st, 2012
9:50 pm

FIRE MARK RICHT

WE WILL NEVER WIN WITH RICHT

Tide washed away the stain of Georgia

December 1st, 2012
9:53 pm

Maybe Georgia will have another shot 10 or 15 years from now, but face it, THIS was its shot. There’s no cupcake schedule next year. No watching Florida and S.C. have to go up against LSU while the Pups hammer Auburn and Ole Miss. There will also be no Jarvis Jones next year, maybe even no Aaron Murray. Oh, and remember how Florida beat itself, with a lot of help from Jarvis Jones? That won’t be happening next year either. The stars aligned for the Pups this year. Next year they’ll have to earn their way back to a title shot, and let’s face it, Georgia never EARNS anything. :-)

zzggyy

December 1st, 2012
9:53 pm

They will still probably end up playing in the Toilet Bowl while some low ranked team from another conference gets a BCS bowl.

Will

December 1st, 2012
9:53 pm

UGA needs some thumpers on their O-line. O-line played pretty good tonight but Bama straight up mauled UGA’s defense in the run game. They threw the ball like twice in the 2nd half. Every play was a running play and UGA couldn’t stop it. We need to get better on the lines of scrimmage. Sometimes bigger isn’t always better.

cmac

December 1st, 2012
9:54 pm

Much better than last year … BUT, wwill nebver win a big game with Murray at QB. The pick at the end of the 2nd qtr was horrendous & led to 3 alabama points.

Then at the end of the game, no spike & the ever present tipped ball from Murray.

Also, Rambo can now shut up about how great uga’s defense is. Great defenses dont allow 350 yards rushing. They also make big stops when needed. Like when your team goes up 11 points with 6 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. Instead, alabama’s next 2 drives go 66 yards in 6 plays & 77 yards in 7 plays & your team now trails. SO SHUT UP RAMBO.

I'm a Georgia fan. It's a license to be stupid.

December 1st, 2012
9:54 pm

inability to stop the run, along with Williams return to the middle of the Tide d-line, are what decided the game…

Will

December 1st, 2012
9:55 pm

UGA will probably play Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Not a bad bowl game.

Will

December 1st, 2012
9:55 pm

UGA will probably play Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Not a bad bowl game.

I'm a Georgia fan. It's a license to be stupid.

December 1st, 2012
9:56 pm

the Dawgs did let a huge opportunity get away…Bama was young this year, better next year…LSU the same, along with Florida…this was your shot, and now it has passed…

Texas Dawg

December 1st, 2012
9:56 pm

I’ve said it in other spots, but I don’t know how much UGA coaches thought they were gaining by not spiking the ball. I think had they spiked it, Bama would have still been on its heels, but more importantly, the Dawgs would have had a chance to collects its own breath and thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, we played a great game and I’m very proud of the effort. And there is NO GUARANTEE that even if Murray had spiked the ball, that we would have won the game. He may have thrown an interception for all we know. But the spike, in my opinion, just would have given them THE BEST chance of winning the game. Richt says a spike takes time, too; well yeah, about two seconds. But watch the tape. If Murray was prepared to spike the ball as soon as the official winds the clock, there would probably been 11 or 12 seconds left after the spike. That’s time enough for two throws to the endzone. Without the spike, even though Bama was reeling, it made our offense get frantic, too. And it showed on that final play. I still say Mitchell wasn’t even open even if the ball hadn’t been tipped.

tee

December 1st, 2012
9:57 pm

Amazing…I am stunned at this loss. As disappointed as Dawg fans are, we should be proud of our guys for fighting until the end. Heartbreaking. I would like to think that we would just reload and go get them next year. Unfortunately, I don’t think so. A loss like this could set us back a couple of years at least….we’ll see. No idea why we didn’t spike the ball…okay, so Bama’s defense had to set up. It wasn’t like they stopped us. Once again, ineptitude costs us a NC. Don’t care what anyone says we would beat ND. Now, the guys can make their NFL plans.

Rick James

December 1st, 2012
9:57 pm

It’s ok..One of the best college football games I’ve seen in years.The glass is half full because Georgia football is back..And to the Tech trolls at least we didnt have to go to the NCAA with hats in hands begging to be allowed in a bowl game because of a subpar record.Go Dawgs and Roll Tide January 7th..

JunkyardDawg2011

December 1st, 2012
9:58 pm

Proud of my Dawgs. This was simply one of those games that could have gone either way.

We’ll be back.

howaboutanallsec

December 1st, 2012
9:58 pm

It would be great to just have a UF vs UGA Sugar Bowl.who is to say uf would not have gone down to the wire or beat bama? both uf and uga should get good bowl games. But we did play for the chance and uf did not and we lost, so i guess this is the price we pay.

Dum-Bass

December 1st, 2012
9:58 pm

“Can’t criticize the non-spike”? Do a poll of all NFL QBs and you will find out that about 9 out of 10(maybe even all) would say spike it in that situation, and set up two good throws INTO the endzone. Just saw the replay again and neither of the GA receivers on the far right side beyond Conley were IN the endzone. That is a NO-BRAINER. Well, yes, I do know who the GA DAWGS coach is. Guess it fits.

Dawg Bite

December 1st, 2012
9:58 pm

Ok ALUM, just who do we hire that can take us to the top? I don’t wear rose colored glasses, but who, just who may be the guy? This one was on the defense, too long on the field against the best offensive line in college ball. And yes, I do question 3rd and one in the final 4 minutes with the run up the middle. Why not play action? I am very dissapointed, but also proud of the DAWGS !!

Pmc

December 1st, 2012
10:00 pm

So when is Georgia going to ever win something of consequence?

Great game

December 1st, 2012
10:00 pm

heartbreaker. maybe shoulda spiked it, maybe Bama just made a good play by tipping what would have been a winning TD to Mitchell. Either way, Dogs took the Tide to the brink. If you can’t support
Richt and the Dogs now, it’s time to move alone to your next bandwagon.
Go Dogs

Gordon

December 1st, 2012
10:00 pm

I’m a Tech fan, but I found myself rooting for UGA on that last drive. Unless you are an Alabama fan, how could you help yourself? This was the rare game that lived up to the hype.

Great game, UGA.

IlliniDawg

December 1st, 2012
10:01 pm

My tow Christmas wishes, which I know I won’t get:

1. The stupid Dawg-hating, Richt-despising trolls on this blog to either have an epiphany and realize that we have a great football program, or to go away for good.

2. The Bama (and Tech fans in disguise) who talk so much trash to show even a little bit of respect to an opponent who gained more yards against Bama than any other team besides A&M, and who played the second-best game against your team.

Coffee Bluff DAWG

December 1st, 2012
10:01 pm

Texas Dawg, I agree spiking the ball was the way to go. Have to have 2 pass plays to the end zone called.

I understand you don’t want the AL defense to get set but that didn’t look like the best play call – even if the ball is not tipped.

it is what it is

December 1st, 2012
10:02 pm

WELL AS YOU INBREDS SPELL IT ON THESE BLOGS, YOU ARE ALL A BUNCH OF”LOOSERS”

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHGAHAHA

TRY PLAYING SOMEBODY DURING YOUR SEASON NEXT YEAR AND MAYBE YOU WILL BE BETTER PREPARED

cmac

December 1st, 2012
10:02 pm

The clock is dead at 15 seconds. If he spikes the ball when the whistle blows, there is 14 seconds left on the clock & time for three throws to the end zone. From Richt’s earliest years at UGA, he has never truly learned the art of clock management. Even earlier in the last drive, Georgia burned 3 – 5 seconds after each first down (watch the tape).

Very sad to let this opportunity slip away. This was set up for the Dawgs. Their schedule, the way thing broke for them at the end of the saeson & an Alabama team that was beatable. The difference is that alabama is better coached and knows how to win BIG games

Ga fans sound like Romney supporters

December 1st, 2012
10:02 pm

They honestly thought they were going to win. Sabin will win his 3rd title in 4 years. Ga can still live off 1980.

Hairy Dawg

December 1st, 2012
10:03 pm

I bet Rambo was up there on the tackles list today. Our secondary was having to make almost all the tackles. It was terrible watching our front seven be totally ripped apart in the second half. Our coaches could not figure out a way to get our guys lined up in a way that would allow ‘em to stem the Tide. I was embarrassed with our front seven’s effort today. Most of those guys will be playing on Sundays soon enough, but Alabama showed them what a real offensive line looks like. I hate to admit that, but facts are facts.

He Hate Gator

December 1st, 2012
10:04 pm

5 yards from playing in the Nahtional Championship game….can’t fault Richt on this game. Great effort. We should be in this game nearly every year and competing for the Natl Title a little more often than 32 years though….

GaBlue

December 1st, 2012
10:04 pm

On behalf of the Auburn family: We were pulling for you. Good effort! Good game. Best title game in years.

Oh, and uh…. THANKS FOR NOTHIN’. Do you know what it takes for us to root for y’all? Woof woof woofing at us all the time… But you know, y’all put a good team together this year and we believed that you could step up and take out the tree killers for us. But noooooooooo…. They’ll probably get a third national title in four years because Satan sent one of his goblins to sacrifice beautiful living things. Dead trees, dead program. Coincidence? The voodoo thumpers in the Bayou don’t think so.

Ga8TR

December 1st, 2012
10:04 pm

That’s right, Dawgs. You’ve earned “respect.” National titles? Not so much. So last century. 1980 seems longer ago than ever tonight, doesn’t it?

Pmc

December 1st, 2012
10:05 pm

No one is getting fired, that’s lunacy. Bobo may take a Head Coaching job and others may leave, but no one is fired.

Apostle

December 1st, 2012
10:05 pm

I have just became a Fighting Irish fan.GO DAWGS!!

Shack

December 1st, 2012
10:05 pm

WHy the tech comments? Pathetic….. Just got steam rolled and ur big comeback is u beat tech…. Have fun at capital bowl losers

Richt's Butt Cut

December 1st, 2012
10:06 pm

33 years now… when will the suffering end?

Jimmy

December 1st, 2012
10:06 pm

Afterward, Richt said, “I told them I was disappointed. But I wasn’t disappointed in them.”

What a GD joke! I hope Richt appologized to his boys and told them he was dissapointed in himself, because that call cost them the game. Bama doesn’t have better players than UGA, just a much better coaching staff. Unbelievable.

hmmm

December 1st, 2012
10:06 pm

Have to live with or get to live with?

Fools Gold

December 1st, 2012
10:06 pm

Same ole Mark Richt same ole excuses… always losing to the better team….. This team and football program once again proved its mere Fools Gold.

Not Disappointed

December 1st, 2012
10:06 pm

This lose hurts me and I’m a die hard Jacket Fan. You guys played a helluva game! ‘Maybe one for the ages in SEC Championship Game.’ Nothing to be ashame about. I know you’re losing some players but you will represent well in the SEC next year!

As always………… Ramblin Wreck!

Typical

December 1st, 2012
10:06 pm

33 years and counting. UGA will never be elite under Richt.

Richt's Butt Cut

December 1st, 2012
10:07 pm

SPIKE THE BALL!!!!!!!!!

Gordon

December 1st, 2012
10:07 pm

I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about Saban’s decision to go for two so early in the second half. That was the difference. Without it, UGA kicks the FG and goes to overtime. I thought it was a mistake at the time, but that’s why Nick makes $5M a year.

After further review

December 1st, 2012
10:08 pm

In watching the game, it looked to me like Murray (watch him as he runs upfield to the line when you watch the replay) wanted to spike it but the sidelines sent in a play. In my opinion, the spike is the correct play in that situation,as it gives the offense time to figure out what they want to do.

Pmc

December 1st, 2012
10:08 pm

Maybe Bobby Cox gave the preface speech??

WTH is it about this state???? Awful