The 2012 SEC Championship Game will go down as an instant classic. It was one of those games that we will talk about 10 years from now and remember fondly as one of the last great games of the BCS era.
The ending, however, left a lot to be desired. Georgia head coach Mark Richt is the reason why.
After the two teams traded haymakers all game long—a game that included six lead changes—Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray found tight end Arthur Lynch over the middle. Down 32-28 with a 1st-and-goal from the 8-yard line with 0:15 seconds showing on the clock and no timeouts, Georgia was within striking distance of punching its ticket to Miami.
Instead of spiking the ball and stopping the clock, Georgia hastily ran a play—a back shoulder fade to Malcolm Mitchell, which was tipped at the line and caught in bounds by Chris Conley as the clocked ticked down to triple zeros.
Conley shouldn't have caught the pass, but it's hard to blame him for reacting to a tipped pass with a split-second decision to catch it.
He's a wide receiver, and that's his job.
He should have never been put in that position.
With 0:15 to play, Georgia could have stopped the clock and had two—and maybe even three—shots at the end zone.
The fact that Georgia wasn't prepared to execute its two-minute offense falls on coaching. Richt in particular.
All week long, we talked about how Georgia's record in big games—3-9 against ranked opponents over the last three years—would play a role in the overall outcome.
It did, but it wasn't Murray shouldering the blame this time. It was Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.
You can even see Murray asking the sideline if they want him to clock it at the 0:18 mark of the above video.
Bobo even admitted that he made a mistake after the game, according to Zach Klein of WSB-TV in Atlanta.
Mike Bobo just told me if he had a chance to do it again.. He'd probably have Murray spike ball #UGA— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) December 2, 2012
Coaches who have been in big-time situations don't let that happen. Sure, Georgia has played in four SEC Championship Games since 2002, but never has had the crystal football staring it in its face.
It was with 0:14 left in the 2012 SEC Championship Game, and the Bulldogs couldn't handle the pressure.
The Crimson Tide to roll into Miami as SEC champions looking to claim their third national title in four years. But the Bulldogs should have had at least one more shot at the potential game-winning touchdown.
They didn't, and they have themselves to blame.