There have been a few pieces this week on the topic of what might have been had Georgia managed to pull out the 2012 SECCG. The one I found most interesting is by ESPN’s Alex Scarborough, for two reasons.
One, the story told of that play by some of the kids on the field:
The clock showed 16 seconds and no timeouts as Lynch fell to the turf on the Alabama 7-yard line. The offensive line hauled tail downfield. Guard Chris Burnette and center David Andrews looked at one another and realized they were making the same gesture to spike the football. But Murray wasn’t on the same page.
“He’s looking at the sideline,” Burnette recalled. “He’s not responding to me, to David, anybody. He just says, ‘Get lined up.’ He doesn’t call a play, doesn’t give us protection or anything. We get to the line, and we’re panicked. The ball gets snapped, and we’re rolling.”
The rest unfolded in slow motion. Murray took the ball and knew exactly where he wanted to go with it, turning to his right where Cris Conley had a step on his defender in the flat. But Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley broke into the backfield like a blur, leaped over the right tackle and got a hand on the pass, slowing it down just enough. The ball fluttered to Conley like a knuckleball, where he cradled it in his gut as he went down at the 5-yard line.
“When he fell, it became clear like, ‘Oh my gosh, the clock is going to keep running, he’s not going to score,'” Burnette said. “… We were just standing there looking at it. I remember it going from 0:03 to 0:02 and just dropping my head, and I remember seeing Arthur Lynch dropping his head and just walking off. It sunk in that quickly. It was all over.”
I know how he felt. The funny thing is that, just like us, the players are split over whether Murray should have spiked the ball.
To this day, it’s all anyone wants to talk about from the 2012 season: Should Georgia have spiked it? Burnette says yes. Lynch says no. Linebacker Amarlo Herrera is somewhere in the middle.
“We should have spiked it, but I thought it was a great call,” Herrera said. “Everybody was sad because we knew they got away with one.”
The other part of Scarborough’s piece worth paying attention to is the realization, even by the players, that it was time for a change.
But for all the players Richt produced and all the games he won — he averaged 9.7 wins in 15 seasons — there was a missing ingredient. Fans grew restless from coming so close and never breaking through.
It hurt, Herrera said, to see Richt ultimately get let go.
“It wasn’t his fault,” he said. “People just weren’t excited, and you need that. I don’t think there was energy there anymore.”
Lynch saw it, too, and it wasn’t just people outside of the building.
“The cancer to life is complacency,” he said. “And I’m not saying we got complacent at Georgia, but some things were being done that were just good enough and we weren’t exceeding the expectations. And I’ll be the first to admit it because I was a part of it.
“Had we won in 2012 against Alabama and won the national championship, does Coach Richt get fired? Probably not. But once we didn’t win it, we kind of hit a little lull and people higher up wanted a new face of the program and new juice.”
That is some painful honesty right there. And it gives this observation more credibility.
Lynch was skeptical at first. In fact, after Georgia lost to Florida last season, he got in some hot water when he tweeted that they might be looking for a new coach soon if they continued losing games like that.
Then he visited campus for a scrimmage this past summer and watched Smart up close — not the plays he called, necessarily, but how he dealt with players.
“It was a totally different take from the way Coach Richt coached,” Lynch said. “It was very hands on. It was super intense. It was attention to detail.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he could turn it around so quickly after seeing that scrimmage. Really seeing that kind of detail and the way he presents himself on and off the field, it screams a little bit Saban.”