On paper, the first-half Georgia Bulldogs won the SEC Championship Game.
The Bulldogs’ halftime stats were impressive. The play-calling was respectable. The crowd was noisy and boisterous with the capacity advantage favoring the red and black.
The heart and soul of players like Aaron Murray and Orson Charles, Brandin Boykin and Blair Walsh was insurmountable. At times, their drive drew blood. In short, the elements inside the Georgia Dome Saturday were just right for a brutal Dawg fight to the end.
It’s true. The first half belonged to Georgia. The Dawgs' monstrous defense held LSU to a total of 12 yards and no first downs … the same number of first downs Alabama players achieved simultaneously while watching the game from their apartments in Tuscaloosa.
On paper, the first-half Bulldogs showed tenacity and poise defensively. They scored on a Blair Walsh 40-yard field goal and a 12-yard Murray pass to Aron White. That was the good news.
Forget the first half penalties and dropped passes that could have put them ahead by a large margin. The scoreboard should have been 21-0 in Georgia’s favor at the half.
Instead—and in reality—Georgia led 10-7 as they hit the locker-room at halftime carrying the baggage of a slim lead combined with poor execution and a few mistakes.
When they returned, Coach Mark Richt seemed rattled. His answers during an interview with Tracy Wolfson were curt, almost as if he knew what was coming in the two quarters ahead.
In that awkward interview, Richt was challenged, fighting for words as if they would stop an impending LSU surge.
The half began and then something went amuck in Dawg-land. The Bulldogs of first-half dominance began to show signs of weakness. They appeared deflated as the run was stopped and the pass became non-existent.
Georgia interceptions, fumbles, a stronger Tiger defense and an explosive LSU offense drove the score up to a brutal end and dreams of a conference title: 42-10.
The Tigers dose of halftime juice came equipped with fresh legs and an opened can. And Georgia—like its predecessor South Carolina playing Auburn in the Dome (last year)—simply couldn’t win for trying.
This LSU team—just as it had with Arkansas—sucked the air out of the Bulldogs’ second-half victory balloon. That’s what great teams do. They come from behind and outlast their opponents physically. They dominate the fourth quarter and pick up steam while the competition tires.
Too bad football is a 60-minute game. Too bad UGA fans will have to wait another year for another opportunity to chase the Eastern division and, hence, earn another trip to Atlanta. Too bad Coach Richt made it out of the early season coaching pits and into the Georgia Dome only to ride home with a loss.
On paper, the news isn't all that bad. Although the gamed ended in a Bulldog defeat—10 wins and a loss to the No. 1 team in the nation is enough hope that 2012 will bring better times.