The thing that really killed me about watching them blow the game on the last play was that it destroyed how well they had played just before that to set up having my heart ripped out.
Tennessee, remember, could have locked the game away by converting one first down on its penultimate series after Eason threw the pick, but it failed to do so. That was the first thing that had to happen, and the defense did its job.
The offense, in turn, after sputtering for much of the fourth quarter, faced a do or die 81-yard march to take the lead. And it did, remarkably. Even more remarkably, it did so by executing at a very high level, with one exception, and even in that case (the false start penalty by Catalina), Kirby limited the damage because he had tucked away his third timeout during the previous Tennessee series and avoided having 10 seconds rolled off the game clock then.
Then came Eason’s touchdown pass to Ridley. When you watch a game live from the stands, there are only so many things you can focus on as you watch a play develop. In my case, I was watching the line and Eason. Stunningly, the left side of the line handled the UT blitz perfectly and created and held the pocket, which Greg Pyke got off the block of the game by shoving aside a Vol rusher. That gave Eason the time he needed to step up in the pocket. He was composed. His mechanics were flawless. He saw the open receiver and he let fly with a perfect pass that led Ridley into the end zone.
The only thing I didn’t know from seeing it was how Ridley got so open in the first place. I mean, Tennessee knew Georgia had to go deep at some point in time and was playing the safeties back. So when I got home and after watching the end of the Clemson-Louisville game, I fired up the DVR to find out.
It turns out that Gary Danielson’s analysis of the play was wrong. The Tennessee cornerback didn’t give up on the play, or Eason’s arm. He got baited by Ridley, who slowed down briefly and kicked it back up to full speed to create separation on the play. It was perfectly done.
In a season in which we’ve been complaining about the receiving corps needing to step up and the coaches needing to coach up their charges, we may have just seen proof that good things are starting to happen.
I just wish they could have happened for about another ten seconds last night.