By Ryan Black
For the AJC
By the time Georgia takes the field for the Capital One bowl on Jan. 1, exactly one month will have passed since it lost to Alabama in the SEC Championship. On Friday, the Bulldogs had their last practice in Athens before they head to Orlando to continue their bowl preparations in the Sunshine State. All the while, Christian Robinson knows people are unsure how the Bulldogs will respond to their crushing, 32-28 loss to the Crimson Tide. Doubters’ questions are grounded in Georgia’s bowl results the last two seasons, falling to Central Florida in a humiliating 10-6 loss in the Liberty Bowl in 2010 and a 33-30 triple-overtime defeat to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl last year, a game the Bulldogs led 16-0 at halftime.
Despite that evidence, Robinson assured he and his teammates are motivated to end the season on the right note.
“We all realize we came up a little short and that’s really disappointing,” the senior inside linebacker said of the SEC Championship game loss. “It was kind of sad around here for a little bit, but getting back out there and practicing we realize that we have a lot to show. We can still go down as one of the best teams in Georgia history. Just because you’re not playing for the national championship doesn’t mean you can’t be a special team. We have those types of players here and that type of leadership that hopefully we’ll show up and not give the (bowl) game away like we did last year.”
Robinson acknowledged the gap the Bulldogs have to fill between their last game and the next could derail some teams. However, he was confident the leaders on this year’s edition of the Bulldogs will make sure they give their best effort in Orlando. But if Georgia shows up lethargic and still thinking about its SEC Championship loss, Robinson said it won’t be hard to tell.
Just see how many big plays the Bulldogs give up.
“That’s usually what shows up when you have a long break — hustle plays,” he said. “Plays you normally didn’t have. You might have people loafing a little bit more, but coaches have done a great job conditioning us and honing in on those things more than X’s and O’s, because those are what win (games), especially with the type of talent we have. If we show up and do what we’re supposed to do and play physically, (we’ll) make plays.”
More than any conditioning the game planning or conditioning the month-long gap will allow, the bigger question is whether the time off will help the Bulldogs cope with their loss to the Crimson Tide better than playing the next week might have. Coming up just short against Alabama will always haunt Arthur Lynch. Even so, the junior tight end admitted he’ll have to “get over it sometime.”
All he and the Bulldogs can do now is look forward to playing the Cornhuskers.
“It’s just like anything else,” he said. “If you don’t do as well as you’d like in school, you’ve got to move on and take whatever is given. Right now for us, it’s the Capital One bowl. We’re grateful for the opportunity. Did we reach our goal? No. But are we sitting there dwelling on the fact we didn’t reach our goal? No. We’re going to prep the way we do and we’ll go in there and hopefully execute and come out with a win. That’s all you can ask for. There’s no going back.”
Being an impatient person, though, Lynch would have preferred to have the bowl game played the week after the SEC Championship.
“I don’t like any bye week. I want to get into it and get into the game, because practice can get pretty tedious,” he said. “But bowl practice is a necessity. It’s kind of like spring ball. You get 15 practices, and for the young guys, it helps out a lot. I think that’s a big deal, but I’m ready to play.”
As disheartening as the loss to the Crimson Tide was, senior cornerback Sanders Commings said it was much easier to stomach than the other one the Bulldogs suffered this season, a lopsided 35-7 defeat to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Oct. 6. Georgia’s showing against South Carolina was inexcusable in Commings’ eyes.
“You never want to get blown out by anyone, so I think we’re more proud of the way we played in that Alabama game,” he said. “Even though we lost, we were right there. You never want to get beat the way we did against South Carolina.”
Robinson couldn’t have disagreed more with his fellow senior. Losing by four touchdowns and getting thoroughly beaten was something he could easily expunge from his memory bank, the type of “bad game” nearly every team is bound to have once during the course of a long season.
But having everything in front of them — an SEC title and a chance at the national championship — and not finishing the job was too painful for Robinson to be able to forget.
“Just because, if you take any play back anywhere before getting to that, it could have been positive,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons that no one blamed anybody. It’s not like people were pointing (fingers) and saying, ‘It was this guy,’ because literally we were five yards away. If you take any play that would give you that distance before on offense, defense or special teams, it would have won the game. I just think we ran out of time, and the last play, we just weren’t able to make it. If the defense would have helped out sooner, they would have had more time. It’s no one’s fault.”