The Alabama football team was on top of the world. The Crimson Tide had just survived to win the Southeastern Conference Championship against the Georgia Bulldogs, winning an instant classic, 32-28. The game, heralded as one of the greatest SEC Championships ever played, was finally over.
The Tide won its first conference title since 2009, something even the 2011 national championship squad didn’t accomplish. Alabama would play in the national championship against No. 1 Notre Dame, earning a shot at a second-consecutive national title and third in four years.
While the Tide stood on top of the world, however, the look on the Georgia players’ faces suggested they’d hit rock bottom. While the Georgia Dome itself hailed the 2012 SEC champions, raining confetti and streamers on the Tide, the Bulldogs silently suffered the pain that comes with being on the losing end of an incredible game.
“It hurts,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said after the game. “It’s disappointing. Hurts a lot. I mean, we prepared hard all week, all season, all offseason, to get back to the Dome and to win.”
Even with the loss, Richt said he was proud of the way his players played. Indeed, the Bulldogs fell a mere five yards short of a win on the final play. C.J. Mosley batted an Aaron Murray pass at the line of scrimmage, which was caught by sophomore wide receiver Chris Conley. Conley slipped and fell inbounds at the five-yard line, allowing the clock to run out and giving the win to Alabama.
The gravity of the play didn’t escape the junior quarterback.
“We make one more play,” Murray said, “and it’s the greatest comeback in Georgia history.”
Richt said the play itself wasn’t a result of miscommunication. He felt his team had the momentum, and the play would result either in a completed touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell or harmlessly exit the end zone. Even if the play failed, it would give Georgia an opportunity for more plays than simply spiking the ball.
Georgia senior linebacker Jarvis Jones, who led the Bulldogs defensively with three tackles for loss and two sacks, said the game was so much more than the final play, however.
“It was a war,” Jones said. “It was a battle all night. You can look at the scoreboard and see.”
Heading into the game, many questioned whether the Bulldogs would be able to play up to Alabama’s physical level of play. Not only did the Bulldogs play up to Alabama’s physicality, they matched the Tide blow-for-blow until the end.
Freshman running back Todd Gurley became only the second back all season to earn over 100 yards against Alabama, with 122 yards and two touchdowns. Despite what others said about them, Gurley said his team wasn’t trying to prove a point to anybody.
“We’re never trying to prove anything to nobody, because what everybody else thinks has nothing to do with us,” Gurley said. “We came out here and gave it our all. We just didn’t come out on top.”
The Bulldogs did prove something to one person, however: Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Saban said he felt, based on the way Georgia played, the Bulldogs deserve a chance to play in BCS Bowl.
“I’m going to tell you, that I think it’s a crying shame if Georgia doesn’t get to go to a BCS Bowl game,” Saban said. “That was a great football game by both teams. And they could have won at the end just as soon as us, and it came right down to the last play.”
Richt shared Saban’s sentiments on the game.
“You know, it was a knock-down, drag-out fight, and everybody swung to the end,” Richt said. “We had a chance at the end. We just didn’t get it done.”