Legacy of loss to Bama: Mark Richt’s program ‘back on the map’

Aaron Murray and his teammates are still seeing dividends from their losing battle with Alabama. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

Aaron Murray and his teammates are still seeing dividends from their losing battle with Alabama. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

Falling just five yards short of making the national championship game against Alabama in what many considered the best college football game played last year hurt Bulldog players and fans. A lot.

But in the long run it appears to be paying off for Georgia’s football program.

Eight months later the game is still being discussed outside the Bulldog Nation — even if many do still maintain Mark Richt should have spiked the ball.

“People are still talking about it, everywhere I go,” Richt said Thursday at SEC Media Days. “Not just in the South.”

On top of that, the Dawgs are the overwhelming SEC media pick to be playing Bama again this year in the conference championship game.

The vote wasn’t even close, with Georgia taking 149 votes to runnerup South Carolina’s 75.

Of course, that same media poll sees the Crimson Tide once again winning the SEC over the Bulldogs, but as Nick Saban noted Thursday, that vote on the eventual conference champ has been right only four of the past 21 years.

Whatever, the fact that Richt’s 2013 team is the SEC East favorite despite losing most of its defensive starters — doesn’t that usually mean rebuilding year? — says something about the lasting impact of taking the Tide down to the wire in that 32-28 game at the Georgia Dome last December.

As quarterback Aaron Murray put it to the SEC media: “We’re back on the map. I think now teams are looking at us differently, saying, ‘We have to play Georgia.’”

Artie Lynch talks to reporters at SEC Media Days. (USA Today)

Artie Lynch talks to reporters at SEC Media Days. (USA Today)

“I think we proved to ourselves that we belong in the top five in the country, if not the top two,” said senior tight end Artie Lynch, a pre-season all-SEC first team pick. “We were a play away. It sounds theatrical and dramatic, but that’s what it was. If we get five more yards, we’re a national championship team. That’s what we’ve been doing the last six, seven months is preparing for that last play that will get us over the edge.”

Sure, Richt said, beating Bama would have been better. “We didn’t want a moral victory.” But, he noted, “We wanted to be respected, and I think our players earned respect on that day.”

“It’s nice to know that it’s had that much of an impact on the college football world, to be talked about eight months after,” Lynch said. “It’s what we want as a team; we want to be recognized.”

As for a rematch with Alabama, Lynch said, “if we win those games, and we’re back there, and they win their games, and they’re back there, I would love that heavyweight matchup. It would be worth the price of admission, that’s for sure.”

Mark Richt is focused on winning the SEC East again. (Dave Martin)

Mark Richt is focused on winning the SEC East again. (Dave Martin)

And the winner of that game naturally would be expected to be playing for the BCS championship. But that’s getting way ahead of what Richt and his players are concentrating on: a threepeat in the SEC East.

A lot of things have to fall into place in order for Georgia to wind up the year in the national championship discussion. A team doesn’t get to the BCS title game without some breaks along the way.

So in the meantime, Georgia is focusing strictly on winning its division. As Richt told ESPN Thursday, “The thing that we can control is that we win the East. If you win the East you play in the SEC Championship Game and if you win that one you’ve got a chance to play for a national championship. So that’s our goal every year and it’s really not much different than any other year.”

What’s different is that more and more people outside the program expect it to happen.

Got something you want to discuss concerning the upcoming football season or UGA athletics? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

208 comments Add your comment

ARdawg

July 19th, 2013
9:21 am

ARdawg

July 19th, 2013
9:24 am

When that game ended, I celebrated. The Dawgs came up short but, they left everything on the field. I don’t celebrate many losses. There were a number of plays and calls I questioned during the game as they happened but at the end I was satisfied with a winning effort even though they came up short

loserdawg

July 19th, 2013
9:41 am

I don’t celebrate many losses…..if you are a Georgia fan you have to…

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
9:48 am

YOU dogs are STILL whining.

You lost the game,

You play to win the game.

GET OVER IT.

YOU LOST.

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
9:49 am

AR dog,

You are a loser.

Go celebrate your losses, loser.

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
9:50 am

AR dog,

You are satisfied to come up short.

That is the reason the dogs are a second rate program.

ARdawg

July 19th, 2013
9:52 am

Tech troll blog. It never takes long for the posers and the haters to jump in

NapaDawg

July 19th, 2013
9:52 am

I just want to see us get focused on Clemson and SC. It seems like we are overlooking Clemson, which is dangerous.

ARdawg

July 19th, 2013
9:53 am

If you trolls didn’t find that game to be one of the best games of all time, you do not appreciate the game of football. Wait a minte, I momentarily forgot who/what your chumps are. How is the World of Warcraft these days anyways?

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
9:56 am

ar dog,

Only losers respect losers.

Lindsey

July 19th, 2013
9:56 am

With every new year comes a new opportunity, can’t wait to see the 2013 Dawgs!! I think Aaron Murray will have his best season yet. Whenever I see clips of that SEC Championship game it still hurts, but I am also very proud of how good they played. They never gave up. I think there is now a lot more respect for the G. GO DAWGS!!!

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
9:57 am

ar dog,

The Ohio State/Miami games was THE best ever.

Oh, and we won.

ARdawg

July 19th, 2013
9:58 am

Napa
I’m not seeing them looking past Clemson. I agree to do so would be a mistake. I think they’ll be ready. Or at least I know they can be even though it’s not the norm for a Richt coached team. They were saying last year that Mizzou would beat us. They went into the year with the same type hype as Clemson

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
9:58 am

ar dog,

Go watch your lady gym dog videos.

Perhaps they too can satisfy you.

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
9:59 am

ar dog,

Clemson – L

Bulldawg35

July 19th, 2013
10:00 am

Buckeye,

Will you have a sit down and cry with Urban Meyer when y’all lose to Michigan??? Cuz you know urban likes to cry when his team losse!!

ARdawg

July 19th, 2013
10:00 am

Anuseye
No, they weren’t

Bulldawg35

July 19th, 2013
10:04 am

We are on the map….by golly though we need to own that map! Anything less than a championship this year is a failure in my eyes…cuz with the whole offense returning and Murray being a senior!

RawDawg

July 19th, 2013
10:09 am

Don’t mind the buckeye. If my team was 0-10 in bowl games against a particular conference, I’d be obsessed with them too.

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
10:24 am

ar dog,

You are quite the linguist.

I’d expect nothing less from a dog.

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
10:25 am

35,

You are on a map of Athens.

The map extends perhaps 50 miles in all directions.

Then it stops.

Class of '98

July 19th, 2013
10:25 am

Lots of UGA fans say we were 5 yards away, and that’s true.

In my opinion, if Todd Gurley had been able to gain one more yard on that 3rd-and-4 late in the 4th quarter, and we had gotten a first down, UGA would have won. But he didn’t we had punt, and Bama scored the go-ahead touchdown.

As far as I’m concerned, we were ONE yard away. It’s bitter pill to swallow, and it was BY FAR the most heartbreaking loss in this 38 year-old Georgia fan’s life.

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
10:26 am

35,

I’ll cry with Urban when we win the NC.

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
10:26 am

98,

OK.

One yard.

You still LOST.

GET OVER IT.

STOP WHINING.

REPEAT:

YOU LOST.

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
10:27 am

98,

Favorite dog word:

“if”

Ranks up there with shoulda woulda and coulda.

GTBob

July 19th, 2013
10:28 am

Losing a game put UGA on the map? Give me a break. Congrats for coming close. Keep ignoring the fact that you got blown out by SC and almost lost to a 2 win Kentucky team. You guys really need to get over the 5 yards thing. Oregon lost in overtime to Stanford. If they didn’t blow that game then they more than likely win the national championship and the SEC wouldn’t have even had a team in the game. There are always teams that came close. Its not really anything to celebrate.

OkieDawg

July 19th, 2013
10:29 am

In 43 days, we’ll see if we can stay on the map. Losing to an ACC school is not what our program needs. Man I hope the dawgs behave for the rest of the summer. The absebce of JHC and Morgan will hurt. However, if our secondary does not step up, I don’t think the absence of our kicker will be the difference. The media seems to think Georgia can replace all those lost starters on defense and be contenders for the SEC East…I’m not so sure. I need to see them in action before I will have a clue as to how good we will be on defense. IF Clemson stops us on our first 5 posessions, the score may be 35-0.

Bulldawg35

July 19th, 2013
10:31 am

Buckeye

Sorry you won’t win a mnc….your team is winless against the sec!

Bulldawg35

July 19th, 2013
10:33 am

Bama would of beat Ohio just as bad as they beat ND….you have no room to talk

vince

July 19th, 2013
10:35 am

Going be very scary with Cooner Noman at safetty. Offense need to play ball control.

Bulldawg35

July 19th, 2013
10:35 am

GTbob..

Their is nothing at tech to celebrate….except for the 5 dollar hotdog and coke combo.lol…..lol….lol..

Bulldawg35

July 19th, 2013
10:37 am

Vince

Yeah it will be scary…cuz I bet u Conner will get the start over Corey Moore! We are going to have to score about 52 points to beat Clemson. We have nobody that can cover sammy!

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
10:40 am

35,

“would”?

You’re a shoulda woulda coulda dog.

That’s why they play the game, 35.

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
10:41 am

35,

There’s always a first time.

GTBob

July 19th, 2013
10:42 am

Bama would of beat Ohio just as bad as they beat ND….you have no room to talk

If Bama had a month to prepare for UGA they would have beaten them just as bad as well.

JM

July 19th, 2013
10:45 am

The delusional dawg fans are still hanging on to that “last play cost us a championship” BS and what a great game they played. Their great defense gave up 450+ yards rushing, they got a lucky 10 point swing with a blocked field goal returned for a TD, (anybody remember the last time that happened), and Bama left points on the field when McCarron threw an INT from Georgia’s 5 yard line instead of throwing it away and kicking the FG. That last play would not have happened if Bama would have stayed in their normal defense instead of a prevent the last 2 minutes of the game, thus making Murray look like Brett Favre.

TheBuckeye

July 19th, 2013
10:53 am

Funny thing, dogs.

If the Alabama game put you “back” on the map it follows that you were “off” the map.

haha.

UA Grad

July 19th, 2013
10:55 am

Definitely one of the top ten best college football games I’ve ever witnessed!

MikeS

July 19th, 2013
11:01 am

@GTBob – Bama could have played ND the day after the SECCG and beaten them down just as hard. ND was completely outclassed on both sides of the ball, playing against by far the most talented team on their schedule. ND had the month to prepare for Bama too, remember. Maybe that’s why it was a game for about half a quarter.

MikeS

July 19th, 2013
11:06 am

Well, OSU will finally be eligible this year, so they can get beat down again by an SEC team in a bowl game. Anyone remember how this NC winning streak got started? Oh yeah…UF and LSU beat down OSU in consecutive years. OSU = overrated…always has. Keep paying off those pollsters so you can get passed into another BCS beatdown haha.

bucket

July 19th, 2013
11:12 am

The SECCG last year definitely proved that by season’s end UGA was just as good as anyone else in the country. That has happened several times in the Mark Richt era. The thing the coaches need to work on is getting the team ready to win from Game 1. This year will certainly give them that chance and we will see if they have truly turned the corner in Athens. Go Dawgs!!!

MikeS

July 19th, 2013
11:15 am

I’m not going to celebrate the loss, but it’s clear that it showed how far UGA has come since the 2010 season. It even garnered respect from perennial UGA basher Mark May on ESPN. They are legitimately back in the SEC title conversation, which these days mean national title conversation. And that’s also why I can’t celebrate it. A team like UGA, who does not get the love from voters or the media that the “power programs” like Bama and OSU do, needs to take advantage of every opportunity. It was clear the winner of this game was going to beat ND for the national title, and likely by 2 TDs or more. Everything doesn’t line up often like that for a team like UGA (see 2002 and 2007).

Bulldawg35

July 19th, 2013
11:16 am

Buckeye

Not when it comes to beating the sec…first times are hard to come by

GTBob

July 19th, 2013
11:17 am

ND had the month to prepare for Bama too, remember.

That was my point. Saban with a long time to prepare is deadly. I don’t think there is any coach who can match him. Look at 2011. They play LSU at home even with two weekends to prepare and they lose by 3. In the championship game they get over a month to prepare for a game in Louisiana and they win by 21. If Saban had over a month to prepare for UGA or anyone else he would slaughter them.

Bulldawg35

July 19th, 2013
11:19 am

GTbob

I don’t think so….so I guess ND didn’t practice for the whole month huh. Lol. Bama would of beat Ohio just as bad as we beat tech last year and you know it

BSNBC

July 19th, 2013
11:19 am

URBAN MEYER IS STILL CRYING FOR TIMMY!

MikeS

July 19th, 2013
11:19 am

To be clear, I’m not down on them or the staff at all. Richt, Grantham, and yes even the much maligned Mike Bobo have done a great job turning this program around in an era where coaches are getting their walking papers as soon as trouble starts. It’s just too hard a loss to stomach as a “moral victory” considering all that was at stake. No doubt in my mind UGA beats ND by at least 2 TDs in the National Title game.

MikeS

July 19th, 2013
11:26 am

@GTBob – your completely underestimating the talent gap between ND and Bama, or even UGA for that matter. Bama didn’t do any fancy game planning. They lined up and rolled ND over just like their O line did against UGA. The difference is ND’s offense isnt half as good as UGAs. ND’s offense was average at best all year. They just dont have the weapons to move the ball against Bama like UGA did.

As for 2011, that’s just what happens often in a rematch. Saban knew what adjustments he needed to make and why. LSU’s offense wasn’t good enough anyway. It was Murray’s turnovers and Honey Badger’s heroics on punts that beat UGA. LSU’s offense had ZERO first downs until the 3rd quarter. UGA should have been up by 2TDs at halftime if not for dropping TD passes and Honey Badger running a punt back.

MikeS

July 19th, 2013
11:32 am

Honestly, I like UGA not getting any respect. They seem to play better than way. When people are talking them down, like against Bama, they have a history of showing up the best. Its when you start telling them how good they are like before the SC game or Bama game in 2008 that they lay an egg on you.

STICKYYYY

July 19th, 2013
11:34 am

YET ANOTHER… BONELESS NIGHT