I’m generally not real big on debating “what if” scenarios in sports, largely because there are so many moments in close games where a key play or two could have made the difference.
What if that player didn’t hang on to the ball? What if that tackle wasn’t missed? You can look at just about any big win or loss that wasn’t a blowout and see how the outcome could have changed if only something had or hadn’t happened.
But many fans enjoy these forays into alternative history, which is why ESPN’s “College Football Live” delves into such topics as the recent “Who wins the 1980 national title if Georgia’s Lindsay Scott doesn’t score vs. Florida?”
Those voting in the poll on ESPN.com for the most part concluded that Lindsay’s famous touchdown not happening would have meant the Dogs wouldn’t have won the 1980 championship, with 43 percent saying Pitt would have taken the title and 37 percent opting for Florida State.
However, 20 percent of the voters thought Georgia still would have been the national champs that year, and agreeing with them was Buck Belue, the Dogs’ quarterback that season. Belue wrote a blog on the subject in which he made a pretty convincing case that even if Scott hadn’t scored on that famous play, Georgia still could have won the game against Florida and kept its unbeaten record.
Trailing the Gators 21-20 with a minute left in the game, the Dogs didn’t expect to score on that play; they were just trying to keep alive a drive mainly aimed at getting into position for a field goal try by trusty Rex Robinson. Rex has even reminisced about how he missed seeing Lindsay score because he was busy preparing for what he expected to be a game-winning kick.
As Belue put it: “Rex told me he was good from 57 that day. In fact, Rex kicked two 57 yard field goals that season, and ended the season 4-6 from 50-plus. He was clutch. That was the plan all along. Let’s get Rex a shot to win it.”
So if Scott had been tackled at Georgia’s 40 on the big play instead of scoring, Belue says he would have hit Lindsay over the middle again. Then: “Drop one off to Herschel underneath would have been 10 yards. Scramble once for 10. Again, with one timeout to stop the clock, we could have run Herschel once. I liked our chances of doing this. What if Buck to Lindsay never happened? We still win the game on a Rex Robinson field goal.”
I’d like to think he’s right.
That discussion set me to thinking about any other “what if” moments for the Dogs with national championship implications, and the one that stood out was the South Carolina game in 2007, when the Dogs were held to four Brandon Coutu field goals in a 16-12 loss in Athens. That loss came to haunt Georgia late in the season when it was one of the hottest teams in the country but was basically out of contention for the BCS game because it didn’t even win the SEC East.
What if Tony Wilson had hung on to the ball he caught from Matthew Stafford when hit at the Gamecocks goal line? And there were other dropped or just-missed passes in the end zone for Georgia in that game.
A TD catch likely would have given the Dogs the win over South Carolina and a better conference record than Tennessee at the end of the season, even with the loss to the Vols. Georgia would have met LSU in the SEC championship game.
The way the Dogs were playing at that point, a win in Atlanta would have seemed likely. And that would have given the Dogs the shot against Ohio State in the BCS title game.
Yeah, thinking about things like that can drive you crazy.
Even so, feel free to offer up your own “what if” moments. …