Knock the ball down. That’s all you have to do. Knock the ball down! That’s what you’re supposed to do on a hail mary pass. Don’t try to catch it, just knock it down. Unfortunately for Georgia, that isn’t what happened on fourth and eighteen with under a minute to play. Instead, safeties Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews collided and tipped the ball to Auburn’s Ricardo Louis. The rest, unbelievably, is history.
I’ve had a few hours (and a few drinks, if you must know) since witnessing one of the most crushing defeats I can ever remember. Here are five things that occurred to me during this back and forth rollercoaster of a game:
1. This series guarantees the unexpected: While the final score wasn’t much of a surprise (I fully expected a shootout), who could have possibly predicted: a comeback from a 20 point deficit, a fourth and 18 hail mary for a touchdown, and a last ditch 55 yard drive in the final twenty-five seconds that came up just short all in the same game? This one goes alongside past classics like 1996, 2002, and 2005.
2. It’s time for a change on defense: Todd Grantham simply isn’t the answer. His defense underachieved in 2012 despite being loaded with future NFL players, and this season it has been downright awful. While the D does deserve credit for coming up with back-to-back stops in the fourth quarter, that does not change the fact that players were constantly out of position and displayed remarkably poor tackling for the majority of the game. This has been going on all season, and something needs to change.
3. Aaron Murray is remarkable: Despite an offensive line that had trouble protecting him all day, Murray almost single-handedly brought Georgia back from a 37-17 deficit. The senior quarterback, who in my opinion is among the best to ever play for the Bulldogs, passed for 415 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for two scores, including the fourth down, go-ahead touchdown that he seemed to make happen by will alone. When things looked bleak, Murray gave the Dawgs absolutely everything he had.
4. I don’t understand Georgia’s kickoff philosophy: While Auburn didn’t have any big returns in the game, it was frustrating to watch Tiger kicker Cody Parkey boom kick after kick out of the end zone, while Marshall Morgan’s kicks barely made it to the ten yard line. Given Auburn’s success in the return game this season, why didn’t Georgia try for touchbacks the way Auburn did? Is this a coaching decision, or can Morgan simply not kick it that far?
5. Georgia never quit: Despite all of the bad things that happened in the game, I was very proud of the way the Dawgs continued to fight. Even when it seemed that the game was out of reach, they never gave up. This "never say die" attitude was very nearly rewarded with a win for the ages. But sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way. Still, you have to love the effort.
Now that Georgia has been officially eliminated from the SEC East race, the only thing left to do is focus on the last two games: Kentucky and Georgia Tech. Even though this has been a disappointing season on many levels, winning these last two, especially the Tech game, would go a long way toward creating a positive feeling for next year. This simply hasn’t been Georgia’s year. Here’s hoping things break our way in the near future.