FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — How close did Alabama come to missing out on Monday night's BCS championship game against Notre Dame?
"I think I got all four fingers," Crimson Tide junior linebacker C.J. Mosley said Friday.
Mosley's four fingers changed the route of Aaron Murray's pass intended for Malcolm Mitchell in the end zone, which might have given Georgia an 8-yard touchdown and a Southeastern Conference title. Instead, Bulldogs receiver Chris Conley instinctively caught the pass at the 5-yard line but lost his footing, leaving the clock to run out on Georgia and securing a 32-28 Crimson Tide victory.
The biggest defensive play of Alabama's season also contained a freshman mistake, as cornerback Geno Smith was supposed to be blitzing along with Mosley.
"I will always wonder that if Geno had blitzed, he probably would have batted the ball down to the ground," Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. "Then there would have been another snap. The fact he didn't come and bat it down and they caught the ball is a little bit of fate there."
Mosley turned around to see where the tipped ball was headed and was thrilled to see it caught in play. Cornerback Dee Milliner was covering Mitchell and can vividly recall the sequence.
"We called out a blitz, and at first we thought they were going to spike it," Milliner said. "Aaron was signaling to spike the ball, but then he looked to the sideline, and I guess they said to run the play. I was on my man, and when I looked up, the ball was in the air.
"The next thing I know the receiver was on the ground and the clock had ticked to zero. That's when everything kicked in for us."
Alabama players raced out on the field inside the Georgia Dome in a chaotic scene, but there was nothing unusual about Mosley's heroics.
Smart remembers Mosley's first day of practice in 2010, when the older players were running pressure drills by bringing two linebackers to the running back, but neither Dont'a Hightower nor Chris Jordan could bat down the ball. When Smart ran the same drill with freshmen, Mosley jumped on a blitz and was successful.
"It was just an instinctive, really smart play, and from that point on, he's always had a knack," Smart said. "In the LSU game this year, they had a third down they were going to convert, but C.J. dropped back and just batted the ball."
The SEC title-game victory was bittersweet for Smart, because it came at the expense of Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.
"That was a really tough moment for me in coaching, because Mike is really my best friend," he said. "We grew up together, and to go against each other made for a really sick feeling before the game because you knew somebody was going to be unhappy at the end of it. For it to end that way was really hard.
"We kind of had a special moment after the game and got to visit a little bit."
Mosley, a 6-foot-2, 232-pounder from Theodore, Ala., has amassed 99 tackles -- 43 more than any other Tide player -- seven tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He was named a consensus All-American after the regular season and promptly announced he was returning for his senior year.
His play against Georgia has given him an opportunity to do something he couldn't accomplish last January, which is to play an entire BCS championship game.
Mosley dislocated his hip during the third quarter of the 21-0 whipping of LSU in New Orleans and wasn't able to celebrate. His injury occurred after an interception of Jordan Jefferson.
"It was a freak accident that I couldn't do anything about, but luckily I bounced back strong," Mosley said. "I'm going to try and finish this game out and give it all I got."
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 ...