ATHENS, Ga. — No regrets whatsoever.
Georgia football coach Mark Richt believes that running a play without spiking the ball with 15 seconds left in the 32-28 loss to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game was the right call. Quarterback Aaron Murray did not get the snap until 10 seconds remained, and his back-shoulder fade route intended for Malcolm Mitchell was tipped by Crimson Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Bulldogs receiver Chris Conley caught the pass and was tackled immediately at Alabama's 5-yard line, and time ran out.
"When you no-huddle, you go with tempo," Richt said Wednesday. "That's what we've been doing all year long, and part of going no-huddle is that when you have a defense on the run, you snap the ball again. You're not looking to stop play. Play was stopped because we got a first down, and with 15 seconds, you can call a play to where if it's incomplete, you've got time for two more plays.
"If you clock the ball, you're probably only going to get two shots, but if we had clocked the ball, we would have called the same play. The problem was the ball got tipped and landed in play."
Richt went so far as to reference his meeting with former Alabama and UCLA offensive coordinator Homer Smith following his first season with the Bulldogs. Richt had mismanaged the final seconds of a 24-17 home loss to Auburn in 2001, and he remembered Smith telling him that "clocking the ball is for people who don't have a plan."
Conley was beating himself up after the Dec. 1 loss for catching the ball, which is a receiver's first instinct, but time has started to heal his pain.
"I've had time to think, and I've had time to watch the film and reflect on that," Conley said. "There is a time when you replay things in your head and grieve a little bit, but after that you've got to let things go. There is much more football to be played, and I'm ready to move forward now."
Smith coming back
Georgia could lose as many as three defensive juniors to the 2013 NFL draft, but end Garrison Smith isn't one of them. The 6-foot-3, 297-pounder from Atlanta has 55 tackles, nine quarterback pressures and two tackles for loss this season.
"I'll be coming back," Smith said. "I just feel like I've got a lot more developing and growth and that I'm not the player that I want to be. I've got a lot more to give to the program and the university.
"Getting my degree is important, because I thought that was something I would never accomplish."
A day after hearing NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper project him in the second- or third-round discussion if he skipped his final season, Murray said he hasn't given his impending decision any thought.
"I'm not even thinking about it." Murray said. "I really want to win this game. I want to win a bowl game and enjoy that, and I still have to sit down with my parents and discuss the pros and cons."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs held their first of 10 on-campus practices Wednesday for the Capital One Bowl, and they will practice five times in Orlando. ... Georgia freshman outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins on the given that junior linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree are turning pro: "If I was them, I'd be gone. All that money? I'd be gone." ... Richt did not know whether senior defensive end Abry Jones, who missed the last six games after undergoing ankle surgery, would be ready to play in the bowl. ... A Nebraska victory would saddle the Bulldogs with three bowl losses in three consecutive seasons for the first time since they lost the Tangerine Bowl to Miami of Ohio after the 1974 season, the Cotton Bowl to Arkansas after the '75 season and the Sugar Bowl to Pittsburgh after the '76 season.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...