“I shook every man’s hand,” Richt said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “and if someone had his head in his hands I rubbed his head and told him I loved him.”
It was that kind effort by the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome, a 32-28 Alabama victory that sends the Crimson Tide back to the National Championship game. Meanwhile, Georgia, ranked No. 3 going into the game, does not even get to play in a BCS bowl game.
The way it happened was almost cruel. The Bulldogs, trailing by four, had one last opportunity to advance to the title game for the first time since 1980.
But “we just ran out of time,” Richt said.
A.J. McCarron of Alabama threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper with 3:15 remaining to put the Tide ahead. On the ensuing, game-deciding possession, the Bulldogs survived an apparent game-clinching interception by Alabama was overturned on a video review.
Continuing the drive, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, operating with no timeouts, completed a 15-yard pass to Arthur Lynch, a 23-yarder to Tavarres King and a 26-yarder to Lynch, who was hauled down at the Alabama 8 as the clock continued to run.
Instead of spiking the ball and to stop the clock with about 14 seconds left, UGA wasted time setting up and finally snapped the ball with 9 seconds to go. Murray attempted a pass into the corner but it was deflected at the line and ended in the arms of Chris Conley out in the right flats. He slipped down at the 5 and the clock ran out.
Richt said the offense had the play it wanted at the end, but Alabama ruined it by tipping the pass. If it had fallen incomplete instead of going to Conley, who instinctively caught it, the Bulldogs likely would’ve had at least one more play, maybe two.
Instead, they were done.
“I told the guys I was disappointed, but I’m not disappointed in them,” Richt said. “They’re warriors. We had a chance at the end.”
Alabama (12-1) will get a chance to make it three out of four when they face top-ranked Notre Dame for the BCS crown on Jan. 7 in Miami.
“This conference will test your mettle,” Saban said. “There are a lot of good teams in this conference. We beat a really good team out there today.
“I’m going to tell you, I think it’s a crying shame Georgia doesn’t get to go to a BCS bowl game,” Saban added. “They should get to go to a BCS bowl game. They played a tremendous game out there today. That was a great football game by both teams, and they could have won at the end just as soon as us. It came right down to the last play.”