This one will be remembered for a while. In a 32-28 loss to No. 2 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, Georgia elected to run a play instead of spiking the ball with seconds left and no timeouts. The Bulldogs had a first down, but threw into the end zone instead of stopping the clock. Chris Conley caught a tipped pass at the five where he was brought down, allowing the clock to run out.
“Well, spiking the ball takes time,” said coach Mark Richt after the game. “We called a play and the goal was to take a shot in the end zone.”
Why the Bulldogs’ offensive coaches didn’t call for a spike is the million dollar question right now in the Peach State. Nick Saban and his much-ballyhooed coaching staff will have to be satisfied with winning despite being out-coached – until the final play.
It is a tragic defeat for Georgia, which has still not played for a national title since Herschel Walker’s final season in 1982. The Bulldogs suffered a narrow defeat in a game of great importance with the entire nation watching. But a loss is a loss.
“We came up short against an outstanding team. We played well, they played well,” said Richt. “I’m proud of our players. It was a great football game. We just ran out of time.”
The Bulldogs will not be able to look back fondly on a blocked field goal that was returned for a score by Alec Ogletree or two Todd Gurley touchdown runs or Jay Rome’s touchdown catch from Murray. A game that seemed destined for the Bulldogs to win now becomes one of the most painful losses in program history.
However, Alabama controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the second half and piled up an absurd amount of rushing yards, 350 total, and looked to run Georgia out of the building the same way LSU did in last year’s SEC championship. But the Bulldogs held strong and made two important stops late in the fourth to give the offense a chance to win it.
Ogletree’s blocked field goal return gave the Bulldogs a 21-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but two straight Alabama drives of almost all runs gave the Tide a 25-21 lead that looked to be the beginning of the end for Georgia. But the Dawgs roared back with a 10-yard rush by Gurley to claim a 28-25 lead. Bama then scored on a 45-yard pass by A.J. McCarron to Amari Cooper to give the Tide its final margin of victory. The Bulldogs being in a run-stopping mode allowed single coverage on the outside for Cooper, a sensational freshman who had 127 yards on seven catches.
But none bigger than that.
Georgia appeared to lose the game on a deflected pass by Murray that was momentarily ruled an interception by Dee Milliner. But an official review changed the call and Georgia responded by roaring down the field for 67 yards before stalling at the Alabama five.
Murray ended up with 265 yards passing, including 80 on the final drive. Gurley led the Dawgs on the ground with 122 yards on 23 carries.