Thursday, May 16, 2013

SECCG rewatch: six months and five yards

I promised to rewatch the Bama loss and then to share my observations. (BTW, here are some quick reactions in pictures.) I recognize that some of you are not ready for this step. For the record, I didn't believe I was either. But I managed okay. I would never steer any of you towards peril, but I do encourage you to at least try watching it if you have not already.

Anyway, here goes. I've taken my original talking points as a guide and then added some additional thoughts at the end.

Lasting memory
My point here is that as much attention as the last play gets (even months afterwards), it is the vision of the Alabama running backs gaining yards at will that is the most tumultuous; the Tide's offensive line mercilessly pounding our future draft picks into the Georgia Dome's turf.
Bracing for impact is easier when you know what's coming.
Still painful though.

And my memory served me pretty well. Rewatching it shows how tired we became as the game wore on. That statement can apply to much of the team and is not meant to suggest that we were lazy, fat and not fit. It's just that our defensive front was too fat and tired to handle Alabama's ground attack. And when Grantham adjusted to address it, McCarron beat us deep.

21-10 lead vanished
And the offense didn't help down the stretch. At least not until the final possession. Murray had a great start to the game (most of which was overshadowed by some early miscues and penalties) and I thought Bobo's gameplan was sound. There were a couple screen passes early that were either called back or not well executed that were just perfect play calls.

But when we needed a first down and some yards we just wilted under the pressure. The players talk about this game haunting them and Bobo talks about how that is part of the game of football. Well, my guess is the ineffectiveness of the offense with a three point lead in the 4th quarter is just as much what they're referring to as that last play of the game. All the momentum we'd earned after Tree's blocked kick return leaked out steadily until we just couldn't move the ball at all.

And that was the most frustrating moments to relive through. Painful. Especially given how well Murray and Company had performed for much of the game to that point.

Special teams - solid A
I wondered how well the special teams had done, mostly because the numerous first quarter punts and second half kickoffs somehow got lost in the highlights and lowlights. But turns out Collin Barber had a great game (six punts for over a 44 yard average), specifically in the first half when field position was critical on every possession. And although Morgan missed the one long field goal, he avoided the dramatics otherwise. Kickoff and punt coverage was great. And of course there was this:

Perfectly executed and well timed. Especially since it came after Alabama botched their own opportunity to catch us napping.

Final drive
So the defense does it's job and gives us the ball back, trailing by four with 68 seconds left. My overall feeling about the final drive is that the near interception that was eventually overturned was a blessing. And a curse. The offense was much more composed after the replay timeout. Murray's feet were settled, confident. The play calling found gaping holes that Lynch utilized and a tremendous catch that King hauled in. Somehow. It was a drive for the ages. But...

...the replay regrouping was also a curse because it eventually led us to the last play of the game.

Final play
I'm surprised by the number of people that are hung up on not spiking the ball. Then again, it wouldn't have changed the play that was called. But would it have helped the execution of the play?

It was the perfect scenario as Bama was completely on their heels, having been gashed for 80 yards in less than a minute. They certainly could've used a timeout. They had two left incidentally, but it's a moot point as even in the position they found themselves in they would not have wanted to give Georgia the time. Regardless, Bobo was getting the best of Smart and he had a play designed to give Murray his best throw (the back shoulder toss that he does so well and had thrown numerous times in this game already) to their top target - Malcolm Mitchell.

Alabama linebacker CJ Mosley was perhaps the only player that could change the script and he did with the touch of a few fingers. Gurley should've met Mosley deeper in, closer to the line of scrimmage. Instead, Mosley was able to intersect his hand with the flight path of the ball. Conley did what he's been told to do since he was knee high to a PeeWee coach.

The clock drained. And Manti Te'o called his dead fake girlfriend to tell her he'd be playing the Crimson Tide.

Closing the book chapter
Couple of final thoughts on this chapter of lore in Georgia Bulldogs history. During the telecast they were polling the audience as to which SECCG was the best ever. I don't recall which game was grabbing the most votes, but it was clear that, as this game wore on, the 2012 installment could poll with the best of them. It was a game for the ages. A contest that was initially believed to be between the best teams in the country, and then proven to be just that, play after play. If you are a fan of college football, this game is the epitome of the reason why.

I noted that Gary Danielson described each team before the game as such: Alabama, focused and Georgia, confident. That ended up being a dead on description for what we were about to see - two heavyweights battling it out for all the marbles. Lucky breaks have long eluded Coach Richt. But Richt won the fake punt game against Saban and that was as much a sign that this Georgia team isn't going to be one to wait on opportunities as there could be. This team was poised and ready to take what they felt was rightfully theirs.

And I'll end this post the same way I ended the other "rewatch" post, because I can't find any better words to wrap up this kind of thing. 
The point is, this game will always be a thorn in our side. It will haunt us forever. But it was a pleasure to watch this team play again. It was a point of pride to see the Georgia Bulldogs play a game against the best team/program in the country, put them on their heels time and time again, even after getting punched in the mouth. We never gave up. And our players left it all on the field. Right where their coaches had asked them to.  
We're all different and we all deal with pain in different ways. But this was good for me. Sure, my heart broke all over again on that last play. How could it not? But win or lose it is always a pleasure to see your team play with that much skill, determination, preparation and heart.
Go Dawgs y'all! One hundred and seven days!