So, which hurts worse, getting blown out in the second half of an SEC Championship like last year, or coming tantalizingly close to a trip to the BCS title game, as the Georgia Bulldogs did Saturday night?
Both results are tough for the players and fans to take, but at least Mark Richt’s 2012 team knows it took the best team in college football down to the wire, and in the end was four yards and about 3 seconds away from playing for the national championship.
This latest SEC Championship loss was emotionally draining, no doubt, but the Dawgs have nothing to be ashamed of in their heartbreaking 32-28 loss to the Crimson Tide.
And while Georgia might not have gotten the win, no one can say quarterback Aaron Murray didn’t step up in a big-time game. Despite Bama’s Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon running wild as the Tide’s powerful offensive line wore down the Georgia defensive front seven and got Bama back in the game after Georgia led by 11 points in the third quarter, Murray kept his team in the game with his arm, completing 18 of 33 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown.
It was an up and down night, with the lead changing hands several times. Even special teams play, often a chink in the armor for Georgia, had its good and bad moments. The Dogs missed a field goal, but they made a first down on a fake punt and blocked a Bama field goal that Alec Ogletree scooped up and returned 55 yards for a touchdown.
In the end, it was traditional grown-man SEC football that won out. Just as Nick Saban predicted at halftime, the team that ran the ball better in the second half won, as Bama set a new SEC Championship game rushing record with 350 yards on the ground. Of course, he was hoping that would be the case because he knew that running was the only way his team was going to beat Georgia, as his offense simply couldn’t handle the Dogs’ pass rush.
Ironically, it was one of those rare occasions when Georgia had a running back break the century mark, as freshman Todd Gurley ran for a very tough 122 yards, and yet lost — because Alabama had two backs go for more than 100 yards as Lacy had an amazing 181 yards and freshman Yeldon got 153.
Yes, there are things you could quibble about, from Georgia’s continuing penchant for committing unnecessary infractions to the inconsistent officiating to some of Mike Bobo’s playcalling on key three-and-outs, the amount of time it took Todd Grantham to adjust to the Tide’s rushing attack in the third quarter, Bacarri Rambo biting on the wrong receiver on the play-action pass that won the game for Bama and, most all, the perplexing decision by the Georgia coaching staff not to spike the ball after Artie Lynch got the ball down to the Bama 8-yard line with 15 seconds remaining on the clock.
Richt’s explanation of the latter decision after the game made little sense; he said spiking the ball would have eaten up 2 or 3 seconds, but the Dogs easily ran off that much time before the ball was snapped on the failed fade pass that was tipped and ended up being the last play of the game. Yeah, you can’t predict a ball will get tipped, but a spike would have guaranteed the Dogs at least two shots at the end zone.
All that aside, Georgia gave the Tide all it could handle in an absolutely thrilling contest. And at least CBS analyst Gary Danielson now knows just how “real” Georgia is. And so does an Alabama team that makes it to its second consecutive BCS title game by the skin of its teeth.
Feel free to share your thoughts on this classic Georgia-Alabama showdown.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg