Bama’s Geno Smith went the wrong way on UGA’s last play

That's Geno Smith at Chris Conley's feet on the final play. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

That's Geno Smith of Atlanta at Chris Conley's feet on the frantic game's final play. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Miami Gardens, Fla. — Geno Smith sat in the stands at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday. Come Monday night, the freshman cornerback from Atlanta’s St. Pius X will play for Alabama in the BCS title game, and his mother and grandmother will be on hand to watch. But on this humid Media Day,  Smith was answering questions about the final play of the Tide’s last game.

“It all ended up working out,” Smith said, but here in South Florida it has been revealed that not everything about the last snap of the classic SEC championship game against Georgia went according to Bama plans. Ten Tide defenders did what they were supposed to do; Geno Smith was the exception.

He dropped into coverage when he should have blitzed. He doesn’t know why. He heard the defensive call — “Spear,” in Alabama parlance — and just went elsewhere. “I was going to take the back (Georgia’s Todd Gurley),” Smith said. “I wound up taking the dude in front of me, No. 31.”

No. 31 for Georgia was receiver Chris Conley, who ultimately caught the pass thrown by Aaron Murray intended for Malcolm Mitchell but redirected by the left hand of the leaping linebacker C.J. Mosley. Conley fell after the catch, and the final five seconds expired and the Bulldogs fell five yards short of playing Notre Dame for the national championship.

You can see Smith in AJC photographer Curtis Compton’s shot of Conley’s catch. The defender was on the turf, having brushed against Conley. Where Smith was supposed to be, however, was where Mosley ended up: Coming off Georgia’s right flank, trying to harass Murray.

“We wound up with two people covering Chris Conley,” said Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, a Georgia alum. “When a team has to snap the ball in a hurry, we think it’s an advantage to pressure. We call it a ‘fastball’ play.”

Both Mosley and Smith were supposed to take their key from Gurley. Had the back run a pass route, they’d have shadowed him. When he stayed put to block, that was their cue to rush.

Said Mosley: “It was a called blitz, but I had the back. At the end of the game, momentum was high, anxiety was high, so I just went and pressured the back.”

Smith: “He wound up doing my job.”

Smart: “Geno was supposed to be coming. Both had Gurley. We call that our ‘green dog’ blitz. If he’d come, we might have had four hands in (Murray’s) face. On the other hand, he might have batted the ball for an incompletion and they’d have had four or five seconds.”

The Tide's C.J. Mosley at Media Day. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Famed deflector C.J. Mosley at Media Day. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Here again, we see how the fickle fingers of fate — on Saturday, Mosley said “I couldn’t even tell you” how many digits he’d applied to Murray’s pass — favored Alabama in a moment that will long live in the memory of two famous programs. Say Smith had been the one in the path of Murray’s throw: He’s 6-foot, as opposed to Mosley’s 6-2. And, as Smart noted in a Friday briefing, Mosley has shown “a knack” for batting passes in practice and in games and “was a really good basketball player in high school.”

There was also a massive human element involved: Smart’s best friend is Mike Bobo, the offensive coordinator who called the play that Smart’s defense defused. “Mike felt (Murray) should have thrown the fade to the other side,” Smart said, meaning to Tavarres King on the left and not Mitchell on the right. “We had our best corner (All-American Dee Milliner) on that side.”

(Bobo did not respond to a mid-December invitation to revisit the end of the Alabama game.)

Smart: “I found Mike in the locker room afterward. We were both sick to our stomachs going in. It was like when we played Will (Muschamp, the former Bulldog who’s now Florida’s coach and who was Texas’ defensive coordinator in the BCS title game in January 2010), but I wasn’t actually matched up against Will.”

Last month Murray said he believed his pass for Mitchell, if untouched, would have been a touchdown. “I don’t think it would,” Milliner said Saturday. “But I’m glad we’re here, and they’re in the land of ‘could’ve, should’ve, would’ve.’ ”

Likewise glad was the freshman Smith, whose mistake did Alabama no harm and perhaps some good. (Had he not bumped Conley after Mosley’s deflection, might the receiver have kept his feet?) Even before Milliner’s apparent clinching interception was overturned with 45 seconds remaining, Smith wasn’t sure his Tide would prevail.

“We were going off the field, we were on the sideline thinking we’d won, and I was thinking, ‘I don’t know if that’s a catch,’ ” Smith said. “Then they hit us with three passes and they were in our red zone, and I was thinking, ‘Oh, man.’ ”

But all’s well that ends well … right? Mosley said he and Smith laughed about the missed assignment afterward, with Mosley saying, ‘Better not do that again, next time they call it.’ ”

Still, it must be noted that Smith wasn’t laughing, or even smiling, when recounting his lapse Saturday. The Alabama program isn’t based on merriment.

“Everything worked out,” Smith said again, still not sure how.

Further reading: Fifteen fateful seconds – the Georgia Bulldogs look back in anguish.

BCS background: History may favor the underdog Irish, but Alabama is too good.

By Mark Bradley

116 comments Add your comment

Birdhair

January 5th, 2013
1:56 pm

Birdhair

January 5th, 2013
1:56 pm

and go st. pius!

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

January 5th, 2013
2:02 pm

And this is why when you start freshmen you could be headed for trouble. Dee Milliner started as a freshmen and he was shall we say not very good but he was better than the guy behind him.

Scott Brantley

January 5th, 2013
2:06 pm

Joey

January 5th, 2013
2:07 pm

Coulda, shoulda, woulda . . .

01HAWK

January 5th, 2013
2:09 pm

Mitchell was covered very well by MILLINER. Both are listed at 6″2. Mitchell was almost out of bounds when the ball was in the air.

We will never know what could have happened.

SC Dawg

January 5th, 2013
2:30 pm

They beat us fair and square. Best game ever. Dawgs beat the Cornhuskers now Tide beat the Irish.

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

January 5th, 2013
2:37 pm

Two Bama players sent home from Miami….The story is the Sr’s recommended they be sent home. The easy button crowd need not apply at Bama.

http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2013/01/senior_leaders_explain_tough_d.html#incart_river

bubba4dawgs

January 5th, 2013
2:47 pm

Don’t you just hate those shoulda, coulda woulda’s! We’ll sbe hating this from now on! Just think what the players are going thru. A good season, team, and you’re all good as far as we are concerned! It’s time to lace up for the next time! We know where the weakness was…….the defense that couldn’t stop the run. Otherwise, it would have been a total different story.

5 yards short

January 5th, 2013
3:03 pm

Aaron Murray and Mark Richt still cant win the Big ones……

Ga Fan Here

January 5th, 2013
3:04 pm

I don’t think Mitchell could have caught the ball. But it would not have been intercepted & most likely one more play.

Mark (another one)

January 5th, 2013
3:07 pm

SC Dawg: you said it. Time for us Dawgs to watch the Tide roll on Monday. Our season is over, and our focus is next year. The Tide still has some unfinished business. Best on Monday.

Pussy Galore

January 5th, 2013
3:08 pm

Best 3 teams in the nation are Bama,Georgia,and Texas A&M. Bama was lucky to beat Dawgs! In fact we didn’t lose to Bama! Time just ran out.

dawgfan

January 5th, 2013
3:24 pm

Bradley is a little obsessed with that play. Move on Bradley.

The team that took Notre Dame to 3 OTs is losing to Ole Miss by two touchdowns.

7576DAWG

January 5th, 2013
3:42 pm

I still say the biggest play was when Alabama made the two point conversion. If they don’t make that we kick a short field goal to win.

jbill

January 5th, 2013
3:44 pm

How long will we cry about that last play……..

dawgfan

January 5th, 2013
3:53 pm

The biggest play was when we couldn’t convert a 3rd and 1 late in the game. The biggest play was when Bama converted a 3rd and 5 late in the game, on the ground no less. Take your pick. We didn’t deserve to win.

Team

January 5th, 2013
3:55 pm

MB will write about the 5 yards for the next 5 years — except on NSD.

Moultrieboy

January 5th, 2013
4:00 pm

Mark, Could Will have been weak line backer not the Florida coach?

Tell the truth

January 5th, 2013
4:18 pm

Mark, do they pay you to keep writing the same thing over and over.The dogs lost and it will never change, NEVER!!! You have other teams that that you can write about, or do you.

SecFan

January 5th, 2013
4:24 pm

Mark, you blew your annual ‘Dawgs will win the NC’ prediction. Get over it already. Go ahead and predict it for 2013. Maybe it will make you feel better.

Erk's quote just one more time men !!!

January 5th, 2013
4:26 pm

Argggggggg…Bamas luck and skill all in one..hard to beat.

Crybabies

January 5th, 2013
4:47 pm

If its and butts were candy and nuts………… dwags still lose. Get over it Bradley. THE BETTER TEAM WON!!!

A person SMART enough to know.....

January 5th, 2013
4:51 pm

Will the Dwag fans cheer for BAMA?
I don’t cheer for FSU, VPI, Clem&sons but if they win it is OK.

45 ACP

January 5th, 2013
5:09 pm

the Dawgs played a hell of a game but lost because they could not stop Alabama’s running game.

Dave

January 5th, 2013
5:09 pm

Just something to fill space on what must be a really slow news day. Who cares.

Old Man

January 5th, 2013
5:55 pm

The game has been over more than a month Bradley, and it’s time we put it behind us. We lost because Alabama was the better team. It’s old news now – and I’m tired of reading your tales of what might have been.

Go Bama against ND.

daddo

January 5th, 2013
5:58 pm

Would of, should of….if Texas A and M stays in the Big 12 they go undefeated and play an undefeated Alabama for the national championship. Let it go. You lost and u can never change that.

fanbase

January 5th, 2013
6:14 pm

murray should have spiked the ball and set up 3 plays to the endzone—GA wins the game and beats ND for the national title. instead, ga goes to another minor bowl in fla and alabama wins title #3 in 4 years., richt can’t win big games.

DawgNole

January 5th, 2013
6:18 pm

Yeah, it still hurts, but pretty much over this one. What sticks in my craw is that we had a 2-score lead in the 3Q and BLEW IT–in the Ga Dome. No legitimate excuse for that.

wise willie

January 5th, 2013
6:32 pm

Bama players had better not listen to all these no-it-alls. Florida did just that, and got embarrased. ND is ready for this game and will play there hearts out. Prediction: Irish 21–Bama 17

OuterBanksDawgs

January 5th, 2013
6:53 pm

I agree… Give it a rest, Mark. For crying out loud, you keep writing this crap and making our whole fan base look like a bunch of idiots. We got over it. We lost. We ALL know what happened. It’s over… Write about the Falcons, bud…they are still playing

GUMPdawg

January 5th, 2013
7:03 pm

I like to go fishing when they are biting.

GUMPdawg

January 5th, 2013
7:04 pm

Absolutely pulling for Alabama and the SEC.

True ATL Fan

January 5th, 2013
7:12 pm

Yeah let it go. Im starting to agree with two things most on here state over and again: 1) AJC writers are pretty bad and 2) there is a serious recruiting problem at UGA. Nkemdiche and Trey Johnson went to high school 30-45 minutes from Athens but neither are going to school there??

Stinger 2

January 5th, 2013
7:17 pm

Why did it take a month for the media to write about this missed defensive asignment?
I doubt that Geno Smith voluntered to make it the subject of his interview on Media Day.
Mark: Would you answer this question. Thanks.

Alphare

January 5th, 2013
7:19 pm

Mark, I sense of a strong feeling of jealousy by a bunch of your readers. I believe that’s because (1) they will never be able to write anything that can be published even on an Athens paper, not to mention an Atlanta newspaper. (2) you are going to watch the NC game in person instead of on TV like most losers have to do Monday night.

Stinger 2

January 5th, 2013
7:22 pm

True ATL Fan: If you are a serious UGA fan, are you sure you want Nkemdiche?
How many defensive ends have you ever seen that wear No. ! on their jersey?
Get my point?

Rick in Warner Robins

January 5th, 2013
7:24 pm

Wrong way or not, Alabama still beat UGA’s choking butt and will continue to do so in years to come. Stop the whining and crying…get over it, they lost!

Discount DoubleDawg

January 5th, 2013
7:34 pm

We (real Dawg fans) are over the loss to bama. Tough loss for sure but we are thinking about next season.

DawgNole

January 5th, 2013
7:40 pm

Rick in Warner Robins
January 5th, 2013
7:24 pm

Wrong way or not, Alabama still beat UGA’s choking butt and will continue to do so in years to come.
_______________________

Too many posts like this one are why I’m still not sure who to pull for. Normally, it would be SEC all the way, but these insufferable Bama posters make it tough.

Discount DoubleDawg

January 5th, 2013
7:42 pm

Not that you need this… but 15 reasons to hate bama. Legit reasons

http://www.outkickthecoverage.com/15-reasons-to-hate-alabama-or-notre-dame.php

Stinger 2

January 5th, 2013
7:50 pm

This comment is off the subject but I just noticed that two very medicore teams ( both at 6-6) drew almost 60,000 fans today at the Compass Bowl in Birmingham.
I doubt that Pitt brought many fans down ther. Got to hand it to the Ole Miss and local Birmingham fans…they support their team and SEC football.

A person SMART enough to know.....

January 5th, 2013
7:55 pm

Stinger 2……………what else is there to do in Birmingham?
Read a book
Go to a museum
See a play
Eat a gourmet meal
or
Watch a football game or hunt possum I guess are the other choices. :)

1969 Graduate

January 5th, 2013
7:59 pm

Interesting too that Notre Dame struggled to beat, and almost lost to, this Pitt team which looked, let’s say, pretty much outclassed by Ole Miss. I know that doesn’t mean a whole lot, but it makes me wonder a bit about just how good Notre Dame is, or isn’t.

Problem is, of course, that that sort of thinking, the sort of thinking that involves common opponents, and common opponents once removed, very infrequently tells us too very much that’s all that meaningful. It is, still, a lot of fun on this Saturday two days before our SEC representative engages in gridiron combat with the team that Ole Miss toyed with today.

Go, SEC!

Go, Bulldogs (the rest of 2013 will be here soon)

DawgNole

January 5th, 2013
8:07 pm

1969 Graduate
January 5th, 2013
7:59 pm

Interesting too that Notre Dame struggled to beat, and almost lost to, this Pitt team which looked, let’s say, pretty much outclassed by Ole Miss. I know that doesn’t mean a whole lot, but it makes me wonder a bit about just how good Notre Dame is, or isn’t.
____________________

The best part now is that we don’t have to wait much longer to find out “just how good Notre Dame is, or isn’t.”

GUMPdawg

January 5th, 2013
8:29 pm

Nick Saben is heading to the NFL to fail again.
Done deal!

GUMPdawg

January 5th, 2013
8:31 pm

NCAA is also investigating Alabama. News will hit soon.

A person SMART enough to know.....

January 5th, 2013
8:34 pm

GumpdWag…………you want to bet your Rent-a-Center furniture on those predictions?

DawgNole

January 5th, 2013
8:35 pm

GUMPdawg
January 5th, 2013
8:29 pm

Nick Saben is heading to the NFL to fail again.
Done deal!

GUMPdawg
January 5th, 2013
8:31 pm

NCAA is also investigating Alabama. News will hit soon.
______________________

Total BS on both of these moronic posts. And it’s SabAn, dumbazz. Stop embarrassing REAL Dawgs, would you?!