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Blog: Mark Richt recounts SEC title game loss to Alabama: ‘You can’t turn back the clock’

Georgia’s Capital One Bowl news conference today was less about Nebraska, the Bulldogs opponent on Jan .1 in Orlando, than about the game that still lingers around the program.

After going over the opponent as usual at the start, coach Mark Richt spent the bulk of his time at the podium answering questions in great detail about the 32-28 loss to Alabama on Dec. 1 in the SEC championship game.

Much of the talk centered on the final 15 seconds after the Bulldogs had driven to the Crimson Tide 8-yard line.

The game ended when time ran out after a tipped pass was caught by Chris Conley at the 5-yard line.

Here is some Q&A with Richt from the news conference:

Q: You were five yards from a national championship berth. Have you been around your team enough to know what their emotional state is as you get ready for this and is that a concern?

A: I haven’t been around them much lately. We did have a team big meeting the Monday after the game and we kind of talked about all those kind of things, talked about what was going to happen in the future. We knew at that point where we we’re going, who we were playing. We talked a lot about just the logistical plan. …You know what? I think most of them know that you can’t turn the clock back. We fought hard, we had a great plan, we did what we could do that day, we just couldn’t get it done. We didn’t do enough to get it done. Everybody knows you’ve got to move on and there are still things that are worth playing for. No. 1 you get to play another football game. I think our guys enjoy playing football. That in itself I think is going to be enough motivation. I think landing where we landing as far as being in the Capital One Bowl, being in Orlando, being in a warm weather climate knowing we’re going to play on Jan. 1 against an outstanding football team, I think all those things have been positive. I will be challenging our leadership to finish better than we did a year ago and to kind of solidfy the job that they’ve done because I think they’ve done an outstanding job to this point. I think they need to put an exclamation point on it or at least finish strong in a manner worthy of the way they led the entire offseason to January to now.”

Q: What about you personally? How much have you reflected on the game as you’ve been recruiting and going to the bowl event in Orlando?

A: I’m trying to think about when I watched the film. It might have been Monday when I watched the film. I watched the coaches’ copy, the TV copy. There were many things—if this happened or if that happened—some things that were obvious to people, some things that might have happened in the middle of the game on second down that could have changed. Shoot,Alabamacould have looked at the film, too, and said if this would have happened and that would have happened we would have done even better. That’s every game.”

Q: What sort of response from recruits have you gotten from the way you play in the championship game?

A: Everything’s been extremely positive. …The Georgia people, the recruits, our own players, the families. No one likes to lose, but I think everybody felt like we were there in the game that meant everything. Not many people were in a game like that. There’s three teams left. We were one of them. We played a great football team and played a great game.

Q: When you were watching the tape. Obviously you watched the last 15 seconds. If you had to do it over again, would you do anything different?

A: No. I guess I can use this time. When you no huddle, you go with tempo. We want to go with pace and that’s what we’ve been doing all year long. Part of going no huddle is when you have a defense on the run, you snap the ball again, you’re not looking to stop play. You don’t need to stop play. Play was stopped because we had a first down. With 15 seconds, strategically if you’re able to call a play, you can call that play. If it’s incomplete, you have time for two more plays. You can run three plays. You want to give yourself as many opportunities as you can. If you clock the ball, you probably only get two shots. Hopefully, you only need one. If we had clocked the ball, we would have called the same play. It was the play that we wanted to call. The problem was the ball got tipped and it landed in play. It was not intended obviously for Chris Conley. At least for us it was not intended for him. When a guy runs a fade here and the guy runs a speed out there, if it’s zone coverage, cornerbacks are taught not to go in the back of the end zone. They’re only going to go so far. If you put a guy in front of him and a guy behind him, you kind of put a stretch on him. You’re trying to throw the ball where it looks like you might be trying to throw it to the shorter guy and then he freezes and the ball goes over the top. That’s if it’s zone. If it’s man coverage, if the QB thinks it’s man coverage, then you’re going to throw the best ball to that receiver. In this case,Murraydidn’t feel like we ran by him. He thought it was more of an even race so that’s when we throw those back shoulder throws. Because he threw a back shoulder throw, it was a lower trajectory throw, which is why the ball was able to get batted. If he thought the receiver had beaten him, he was going to throw it more over the top, that ball would have probably would have not been batted. You throw the ball according to what you see. It was more of a tight coverage.

Q: That’s a pass that Murray throws  well?

A: We throw the heck out of that back shoulder throw. Even the catch that TK had on that third-and-one or whatever it was, that was a back shoulder. You watch the last few seasons, he’s at good at doing that as anybody. That’s what he was doing. If you run a system where you’re used to going fast, it’s no big deal. Let’s just call the next play. It’s just what we do. If we spike it, you also give them time strategically to gather up and get their senses and get their calls in and all that kind of thing.

Q: It looked like your back (Todd Gurley) even picked up the blitzing linebacker.

A: Well, he was in position to pick him up, but what happened is he was supposed to blitz from what I hear and it looked like he was about to come, but he was coming from such distance and it was kind of a quick catch and throw, but he kind of just hit the brakes and threw his hands up and got his hands on it, which was a great play by him. You’re probably talking about one or two digits of a finger. That’s how close games are sometimes. I’ll go back in time if you want to go back in time on clock management. We had that Auburn game years ago (in 2001) where we didn’t manage the clock very well. That offseason we go see Homer Smith. You read his stuff. Homer is not going to clock the ball. He says don’t clock. He says clocking the ball is for people that don’t have a plan. That’s what he says. If you’re prepared and you move the chains and the clock is stopped and you’ve got the play that you like, call it. Because if you call it, you’ve got a greater chance for getting three plays as compared to clocking it and probably only getting two plays. That was part of the issue in theAuburngame. I ran a play. We could have scored, but if I had thrown the ball and incompleted it, I would have given our team two chances. That was the issue. `Coach didn’t give us enough opportunities to score.’ Well, in this game it was a matter of two plays or trying to get three plays. Just making that a part of what we’ve done for the last 10, 11 years as far as in a two-minute drill. Then also once we went to no-huddle it’s not just a big deal for us to go to the line and snap the ball. That’s what we do.

Q: Is that what you practice in two-minute drill to always get up and run a play?

A: We do two ways. One way is that we go against the defense. We’ll call the situation. 60 yards to go, one minute, one time out, and a field goal wins it, and then you just play. You play it out. Whatever happens, happens. You react to what happens in the practice itself. There are other times that you’ll script what you do against your scout team. If we have a first down and the clock is stopped, and we’re lined up ready to go, you can snap and spike it or you can snap and call a play. As we’re hustling down to the ball, the play was called. Mike (Bobo) had already called the play. It’s exactly what we would have called if we had spiked it and decided what to call. It was the same call. The problem was that the ball got tipped and they caught it in play. Do you want to throw it to a guy in play? No. Murray wasn’t throwing it to the guy in play.Murraywas trying to throw a back-shoulder ball because it was man coverage, tight coverage. The other thing is why even have a receiver in play? Well, like I said, if it’s zone coverage, you’re trying to affect that cornerback.

Q:Alabama was in man-to-man?

A: I don’t know what everybody else was doing in there, but that corner (was on Malcolm Mitchell). He didn’t feel like he ran by him. It was tight coverage and that’s when you throw on the back shoulder.

Q: Would you like Mitchell to get deeper in the end zone?

A: He’s just trying to get off the jam and tried to get deep. Sometimes you beat him off the jam and sometimes a guy…it wasn’t like to us offensively. There is no shutdown corner. There’s no coverage that if the ball is placed properly that the guy can win. If the guy does a good job on the jam and doesn’t get beat deep, he’s vulnerable to the back shoulder throw. If he’s lagging for that or trying to be the hero, then he can get run by. The quarterback has to recognize the coverage and throw the ball according to what he sees.”

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