Georgia’s season may have seemed like it ended Saturday night in Auburn when a fourth-and-18 pass became a knockout punch to the gut for a Bulldogs’ team that’s dealt with more than its share of body blows.
The Bulldogs helped make a last-ditch chance for the Tigers into a moment that will be long remembered — on both the winning and losing side in the old rivarly — in a 43-38 Auburn victory.
Safeties Josh-Harvey Clemons and Tray Matthews were in position to make the play on the ball. Harvey-Clemons deflected the Nick Marshall pass high in the air with his right hand while Matthews was trying to make the interception.
Ricardo Louis’ 73-yard touchdown catch with 25 seconds to go was labeled by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most improbable plays in the history of college football.”
A day later, Georgia coach Mark Richt said: “We never would have dreamed that what happened would happen.”
He said his team as a whole played well in the fourth quarter “minus the one miracle play at the end.”
Richt didn’t second guess the decision to rush only three on the play.
“I didn’t want to reduce the game, we didn’t want to reduce the game to just a one-on-one shot,” Richt said. “Even if they got the first down, they still had a ways to go with only 36 seconds to get into field goal range and still had to make the kick. You could end it with a sack or pressure or something like that, but you could also get in a situation where the quarterback could lay it out there for a one-on-one shot and possibly get a touchdown. … I’m real comfortable with the call we made, when we made it, when it was called. Even looking back, it was the right thing to do. We just didn’t execute properly.”
The games go on.
Georgia’s final home game will be Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPNU against Kentucky.
“We’ve got to get over it, move on and finish the season off strong,” quarterback Aaron Murray said.
Georgia (6-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) is playing now for its spot in the SEC postseason pecking order, with the Chick-fil-A, Gator and Music City bowls the likeliest landing spots.
“We need to be able to bounce back,” Richt said. “Kentucky had a tough loss, too. Both teams will have to shake it off and get back ready to compete. … Sometimes you’d like to be playing a baseball schedule after one like that where you could play the next game a little bit faster than having to wait a week.”
Kentucky (2-8, 0-6) has lost 14 straight SEC games. The Wildcats are coming off a 22-6 loss at Vanderbilt Saturday.
“This season isn’t over with,” receiver Rantavious Wooten said. “We have to talk to the young guys and tell them to keep the faith and keep fighting.”
Richt answered questions Sunday about his level of satisfaction with the defensive coaching staff, headed by fourth-year coordinator Todd Grantham.
Georgia is allowing 30.2 points per game, 11th in the SEC. It is on pace to set a program record for most points allowed per game, surpassing the 26.6 set in 1990.
“Well, here’s what I say: I say we’re a team here at Georgia and we’re going to keep coaching and keep trying to make improvements and corrections on everything we do in all phases of the game,” he said.
Three of the Bulldogs four losses are against No. 6 Auburn, No. 7 Clemson and No. 8 Missouri. The Bulldogs gave up 43, 38 and 41 points in those losses and 41 in a win against LSU.
The Bulldogs are yielding 386.9 yards per game, which ranks 53rd nationally and ninth in the SEC.
“The bottom line is at Georgia we’re a team and we win together and lose together,” Richt said.
Notes: Richt confirmed that tight end Jay Rome is out for the final two regular season games against Kentucky and Georgia Tech. He didn’t think he will need surgery.
“I don’t know if a bowl is out of the question or not,” Richt said. … Georgia’s loss left Missouri and South Carolina as the lone teams still alive to win the SEC East. “I feel badly for those defensive backs from Georgia that tipped the ball up to the guy,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said on a teleconference Sunday. “Sometimes you wonder what they’re thinking on that fourth down. You think just knock it down or let it hit the ground.”