Wanted to share some thoughts from finally manning up and rewatching
the SEC Championship game. I can't say that I feel better in terms of the outcome. But it was validating (again) to see that our team gave everything on the field, against the best team in the country, in the greatest game of the season.
No amount of heartbreak can take away my pride in that.
The first thing I'd point out is that even those who contributed to big plays by Bama (for example: Swann on a couple passes, Gurley late in responding to a blitz on the last play and Conley who beat himself up a little for doing something that comes naturally to him) had big games.
- Without Gurley's legs we're no where close at the end. The kid is just a grown ass man running the damn football. Period.
- The Swann-Cooper battle was interesting to watch the whole game. Cooper might have gotten the better of him, but I hope to see that match up again next season. They are both two very talented football players.
- Even Verne and Gary pointed out how much we were missing Marlon and Bennett on the perimeter and down field blocking. Conley missed a block or two early, but laid some good ones as the game progressed. And he was a good two strides ahead on the interception. I didn't realize he has gained that much separation until last night.
- A lesser quarterback would've thrown in the towel, especially after that hit by Dial. If you aren't hoping in your heart of hearts that Aaron Murray comes back next season...you either didn't see the same game I did or I just don't want to know you.
Next, the coaching was the only thing that came close to matching the play on the field. In fact, early on the players were a little tight and took a while to settle in. Yet the coaches hit the ground running. The feeling out and eventual chess match between Bobo and Smart was especially interesting to watch. Bobo called a great screen pass that was negated by a block in the back that kind of epitomized the first quarter - great play calling on both sides, yet neither team could break through completely.
Georgia eventually struck first of course, bolstered by a perfectly executed and well designed fake punt. That was much more than a shot in the arm for the game. How many great trick plays have we seen in recent memory that were negated because of poor execution and/or a flag on the field? Once Commings cradled Lynch's pass for the first down it felt like a monkey sliding off the back of Coach Richt and his staff.
In terms of clock management, there's nothing more to be said about how the game ended for Georgia. Richt and others have answered those questions more than sufficiently. However, it's interesting that not more has been made of Saban's mismanagement of the clock at the end of the first half. They got a field goal out of it, but lost at least a couple shots at the endzone and took two timeouts into the locker room. I'm sure it helps when you win the game, but that really could've come back to bite them.
Last point - if you were in the stadium, there was no way to escape knowing that this was as hard-hitting an affair as you will ever see. But until you see it on television (with the added luxury of replay), you just can't truly appreciate it. So although it was painfully agonizing to watch my team fall short of a goal again that they had so valiantly earned, it was worth it for me to see this epic game once more.
In the end the score was the same, the result was just as painful. But take heart in this Dawg fans: in a game that featured bone crushing hits for 60 minutes, there were two goal line battles that Georgia clearly won. When we absolutely HAD to have a stop after a penalty put our defense's back to the wall, Ogletree met Lacy in a jarring collision and held him up. The next play Commings intercepted McCarron to leave Bama empty handed. And in the fourth quarter Gurley shed tacklers like they were children and ran straight downhill at a Bama defender, the only person who could keep him out of the endzone. He scored.
That may seem like a small consolation. Believe me, I know it does. But it shows how far this program has come. Ready, willing and not afraid to compete with the anyone, on any stage. And with that I'm ready to move forward. I'll never forget this game, and I'll never get over it. But I'm proud to have been a part of it. Again.