Georgia coach Mark Richt addresses reporters during Thursday’s SEC Media Days and talks about the upcoming season, which could be an exciting one for Bulldog fans.
HOOVER, Ala. — Aaron Murray got the question for the umpteenth time, and he did not snap. He didn’t roll his eyes. In fact, speaking to a reporter he had never met and whose name he didn’t know, Murray practically opened up about the subject.
“I’ve watched that game about four times now,” he said, talking about the Bulldogs’ loss to Alabama in last year’s SEC championship game. “That five seconds took about a year, and I was just trying to find a way to make it stop.”
Across the room, fellow Georgia seniors Arthur Lynch and Garrison Smith were getting the same questions. Their head coach, Mark Richt, also heard it as he went from room to room. Ostensibly, SEC Media Days is about previewing next season. But for these men, the dominant topic was “that game,” no need to specify it.
The most interesting thing about the loss is that while it was heartbreaking, the Bulldogs, who were picked on Thursday to win the SEC East Championship, are fine with it.
“I think we earned more respect on that day,” Richt said Thursday. “People are still talking about it, everywhere I go. Not just in the South.”
While Georgia is picked to win the SEC East for a third straight year. Alabama is picked to win the SEC West. In other words, the media picked a rematch of last year’s SEC championship game, when Georgia lost by four points, coming up five yards short of winning the conference title and probably the national title, judging by Alabama’s ensuing rout of Notre Dame.
“That’s pretty true, if they would’ve scored that touchdown,” Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “They were five yards away. But everything happens for a reason.”
Every key player from that final, painful sequence (from Georgia’s perspective) is back this season. Mosley is the one who tipped Murray’s pass, which was instinctively caught by Chris Conley, in bounds, allowing the clock to run out.
Even recounting that might be painful for most Georgia fans. But the players and coach themselves have no problem doing so. Murray diagrammed and outlined the play numerous times Thursday.
“You watch the film, and it clearly hit his finger by that much, and the ball just died,” Murray said. “It stinks the way it ended, but it was an unbelievable game between two unbelievable teams, and I had a lot of fun.”
“It’s nice to know that it’s had that much of an impact on the college football world, to be talked about eight months after,” Lynch said. “It’s what we want as a team; we want to be recognized.”
Richt was asked how much he watched the tape and said he got to it a few months later after National Signing Day.
“It’s healthy to watch all those games,” Richt said. “It was certainly a gut-wrenching thing to see again, the way it finished. But it was also exciting to see a great football game by two tremendous powerhouse football teams.”
By contrast, Alabama head coach Nick Saban didn’t get one question about the game, at least during his appearance in the main media room. He did get asked about the recent classics with LSU.
Mosley said he does hear about it occasionally.
“We get asked about it a lot, particularly me because I tipped the pass,” Mosley said. “It was a great game.”
But Mosley downplayed the idea that if he didn’t tip the ball, Murray’s pass would have been completed to Malcolm Mitchell for a game-winning touchdown.
“I feel like if I didn’t tip it, we still had Robert Lester and Dee Millner right there to make the tackle. And I could’ve gotten back and made the tackle too,” Mosley said. “So I had confidence whether I tipped it or not that we were gonna make the play.”
In any case, while Alabama considers that game a classic that is just part of its recent run of dominance, Georgia considers it the next step. The Bulldogs were heavy underdogs in that game, yet turned in a heady performance. It was a big reason the team finished in the top five of the national rankings.
Murray and Lynch were both asked if they were sick of being asked about the game, and neither said yes. Murray said he was “a little bit” but added that the Bulldogs “gained a lot of confidence from the game.”
And it did not escape their notice that the media was predicting a rematch.
“If we win those games, and we’re back there, and they win their games, and they’re back there, I would love that heavyweight matchup,” Lynch said. “It would be worth the price of admission, that’s for sure.”
SEC PREDICTIONS: Georgia received 149 votes to finish first in the Eastern Division, almost twice as many as predicted runner-up South Carolina, which got 75 first-place votes. Florida, which got 19 first-place votes, was picked to finish third in the East.
Alabama was an even larger favorite in the Western Division, garnering 225 first-place votes. Texas A&M, picked to finish second in the West, got 11 first-place votes.
Two-time defending national champion Alabama got 182 votes to win the SEC championship, while Georgia, with 38 votes, got the second most.
Georgia administrative assistant might get LSU week off: During the week Georgia begins its preparations to take on LSU, one of the members of the Bulldogs’ football office staff will also double as one of the Tigers’ biggest fans. Tammy Mettenberger, the mother of LSU quarterback Zach, works as an administrative assistant for Georgia.
Given her split allegiances, Richt smirked when someone brought up the possibility that Mettenberger might want the LSU week off from work. Richt said he would leave the decision up to her.
“She’s been with us longer than I’ve been at Georgia,” he said. “She’s a mainstay there. If she wants to take a week off prior to that, we might work that out.
“We know her, love her and trust her, but I know she loves her boy. That’s for sure.”
Extra motivation: Richt says the best motivational speakers are “guys that really have a passion for our program.”
Georgia brings in motivational speakers to address the team “quite often,” according to Richt. From former players to “guys that have had tremendous success” in their respective fields, those who have talked to the Bulldogs run the gamut of life experiences and occupations.
But Richt left no doubt that Georgia alums always seem to have a way of being the speakers who leave lasting impressions with his current crop of Bulldogs.
“I think the ones that are the best for us are the ones that are former Georgia players,” he said. “Either guys talking about experiences in life that hurt them and use those gentlemen as a warning for our guys for certain things that can get them into trouble.”