Georgia / Alabama Thoughts: Misplaced Disappointment
Dude’s Note: I’ll do a nuts and bolts recap of SEC Championship Game later this week (probably tomorrow), but here are a few thoughts on the game as a whole.
On Friday night I met up with a number of folks that I work with for a game of poker. The evening was unseasonably warm (one of those nights that makes me a huge fan of Global Warming) and we took our game outside, using only an outdoor fireplace for warmth. At one point fairly early in the evening – before anything got too out of control – one of the fire logs somehow dislodged itself from the stack of burning embers and made a run for it. It rolled out of the fireplace and down the hearth before coming dangerously close to our field of play and ultimately shattering a beer bottle on the ground. Some of us looked on with confusion, a few jumped to action returning the log to its rightful place, but one particular gentleman offered the understatement of the evening, “That was disappointing,” as he gazed at his newly destroyed drink and the havoc that had just been wreaked. He wasn’t disappointed with the weather, the fire, the log’s movement or the beer itself.
He was disappointed with the end result. And that’s exactly how I feel about Saturday night’s game.
Alabama was the better football team on Saturday, and it pains me to say that. That decision was not reached decisively and it certainly wasn’t reached early, but at the end of the football game Alabama was the better team.
The Crimson Tide rolled into the Georgia Dome and did the one thing that they wanted to do: runthe football. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon ran it well, they ran it often and they ran it at will. I asserted last week that Alabama is a better team when they run the football. They ran the ball 52 times on Saturday (although it seemed more like 75) for 350 yards (although it seemed more like a charity 5k). The Tide dominated the line of scrimmage and opened up 181 yards or rushing for my pre-season Heisman pick, Eddie Lacy and cleared lanes for another 153 from freshman T.J. Yeldon.
A.J. McCarron had a solid but expectedly non-spectacular outing throwing for 162 yards, 1 TD (a dagger in the fourth quarter) and an interception. But stopping the Alabama running game proved to be the key for a Georgia victory and the Bulldogs couldn’t do it. When your team accomplishes what it wants to accomplish on offense with such a high degree of efficiency – especially a team of Alabama’s caliber – you aren’t going to lose many football games. But Alabama almost did.
Eight weeks ago the South Carolina Gamecocks came out against UGA and did exactly what they wanted to do on the field. Georgia lost that game 35-7. Consider how far the Bulldogs have come. Despite giving up 512 yards of offense, the Georgia Bulldogs were five yards from going to the National Championship. Georgia took on the best team in the country – a team that had a lot of things go the right way – and the Bulldogs were still this close. There is no consolation prize for a BCS National Championship, and if there was it certainly wouldn’t be found at the Capital One Bowl, but the overall effort by the Bulldogs was worthy of praise.
Despite shortcomings against the run game, the defense still made plays. The Dawgs won the turnover battle and Alec Ogletree’s return of the blocked kick was the type of legendary play that would live forever if the Bulldogs had held on. And the Georgia offense was nothing to shake a fist at.
As anticipated, the Bulldogs weren’t terrified by Alabama’s defense. Todd Gurley ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman against the best run-stopping unit in the nation. Apparently Georgia’s offensive line was doing some work of it’s own. Aaron Murray was five yards away from rivaling Herschel in Georgia folklore. After his near interception on the last drive Murray connected on four consecutive passes for 67 yards. But I’m sure he wishes that streak had stopped at three.
If the streak stopped at three there might still have been time on the clock and the Bulldogs might have won that tackle football game. Georgia hurried to the line against a haggard defense that was reeling after giving up 64 yards in three consecutive plays and Mike Bobo called a fade route accompanied by a shallow out. It was the right call. Could the Dawgs have gotten to the line faster? Maybe. Should they have spiked it? I don’t think so. Again, Alabama was reeling and Aaron Murray has thrown an inordinate amount of touchdown passes on fade routes – the play that was called was the play that was needed. How good is Georgia at that play? It’s hard to measure, but before the season even started ESPN’s College Gameday ran a segment on Murray in which they labeled him, “The Master of the Fade.” But even a correct play-call can’t overcome a playmaker.
The pass was tipped and that tipped ball found its way into the arms of the shallow out receiver, Chris Conley, who instinctively made the catch. People seem to have forgotten that Murray’s last pass could have been tipped after a spike as well. And even if the ball had been snapped faster Georgia wouldn not have had time to hurry to the line and get a second shot as the pass still could have been tipped. Could Georgia have been smoother in time management? Sure. But who’s to say an Alabama defense, which is the very definition of disciplined and well-coached, wouldn’t have made another play? And just like that Georgia came up five yards short. Of everything. When it was over it still didn’t seem over. If I suited up for the red and black I might still be wandering aimlessly on the turf.
That was disappointing. But of all the people being blamed – Aaron Murray, Christian Conley, Mark Richt, Mike Bobo and even Grantham and his defense – I’m not disappointed in any of them. I’m just disappointed in the end result. This is the worst kind of ruined drink. Glory, glory to ole Georgia.
That’s all I got/ Andrew