ATLANTA — Five yards on Saturday were all that kept Georgia from getting to travel 700 miles in January.
Chris Conley caught a tipped pass for a 3-yard gain to the opponents' 5, but once he hit the turf the final seconds ticked off the clock and those final 5 yards prevented the Bulldogs from pulling off a dramatic comeback and advancing to the BCS national title game in Miami. Instead, Alabama claimed a 32-28 SEC championship win and the right to defend last year's national title.
"We wanted to go to Miami -- we expected to get to -- but we came up short. About as close as you can get but still come up short," said Bulldogs senior cornerback Sanders Commings. "We got to this game last year, but this time it's a lot more painful because there was more on the line and we were a lot closer to getting it done."
Georgia had taken an early lead and later grabbed second-half momentum on the strength of two special-teams plays. The first was by Commings, who caught a 16-yard pass from upback Arthur Lynch to convert a fourth-and-10 fake punt. That kept alive a 13-play, 87-yard drive that was capped two plays later when Aaron Murray passed to Jay Rome for the game's first points, a 20-yard touchdown pass.
"I hadn't caught a pass since high school, so I was nervous when they called that play and I knew it was coming to me," said Commings, who also intercepted a pass in the end zone in the first half to preserve an early lead. "I was nervous lining up and just kept thinking, 'Don't drop this.'
"In a game like this, you know every play can be big, but especially one like that when you're trying to catch them off guard and keep a drive alive."
After Georgia opened the second half with a scoring drive to retake a four-point lead, the combination of linebackers Cornelius Washington and Alec Ogletree stepped up to make another huge special-teams play. Washington fought through the right side of the Crimson Tide line to block a field-goal attempt and Ogletree caught the ball on a bounce and raced 55 yards for a touchdown and a 21-10 lead.
"That's something we practice all the time and thought we could get a block," Ogletree said. "C.W. busted through and made a great play, and all I had to do was scoop it and score.
"Our special teams played great today. We won the part of the game and gave ourselves a chance to win. We just came up about 5 yards short, and that's pretty tough to swallow."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...