To spike or not to spike

sports@macon.comDecember 4, 2012 

It undoubtedly will go down as one of the most questionable calls in the history of sports in this state. Yes, it was that big. And you probably will be able to know what people are talking about for years with two simple words: the spike.

It’s the fact Georgia didn’t spike the ball with 15 seconds left in the game against Alabama on Saturday that has many up in arms. It’s a great debate, and it probably will linger for a long time.

It’s what makes sports great, to be honest. It’s why we love watching football. You love to second-guess a coach about a decision, to wonder what might have happened if the coach had done something different. It’s just what we do as sports fans.

For the record, I believe Aaron Murray should have been allowed to spike the ball and stop the clock. Murray probably wanted to, or at least thought he would be told to do it, since he was motioning to the sideline to spike the ball as he ran up to the line of scrimmage.

But instead, the clock started, and with 11 seconds left the ball was snapped to Murray. He threw a fade pattern that was intended for Malcolm Mitchell. The ball was tipped by an Alabama defender, and then Chris Conley caught it short of the goal line. There was no way to stop the clock, and Alabama won the game 32-28.

If Georgia had spiked the ball and had time to set up a play, there’s still no guarantee it would have been able to get into the end zone. The Bulldogs had to score six points to win since they were down by four. But the break in action would at least have allowed Georgia to take a breath and set up the next two plays.

Those who take up for the decision to not spike it believe Georgia had Alabama on the ropes. The Bulldogs had gone from their own 15-yard line to the Alabama 8 in 53 seconds, mostly on pass plays down the middle of the field. Georgia needed, some believe, to keep the drive going at a rapid pace. But with no time outs left, it left little room for error if something bad happened.

And it did. That’s what happens in football sometimes -- the unexpected.

The main reason I think the Bulldogs should have spiked it is simple. Georgia had confusion on the line of scrimmage, even on the play before they got down to the Alabama 8. After Tavarres King caught a 23-yard pass to put the ball on the Alabama 34, the Bulldogs took too much time on the next play. It took almost nine seconds off the clock to snap the ball, and once they did, Murray completed another pass to Arthur Lynch, which got Georgia to the Alabama 8.

Mark Richt said after the game that if they had spiked the ball, they might have taken too much time off the clock. I just don’t agree. It should have taken no more than three seconds to snap it and then spike it. Heck, it took them four seconds to snap the ball to Murray before he made the pass that was caught (by mistake) by Conley.

Sure, if the pass had not been tipped, it might have simply been incomplete, and Georgia would have gotten another chance, or maybe Mitchell would have caught it for the touchdown. But I go back to that confusion. It’s this quote from offensive coordinator Mike Bobo that convinces me they messed up by not spiking the ball to properly set up the play.

“There was some confusion of us lining up,” Bobo said. “We took too long to get lined up. I’m not really sure what happened there at the end.”

They had to avoid that confusion. It’s because of what happened on the previous play, when nine long seconds ticked off the clock that should have convinced Bobo and Richt they needed to spike it to set up the next play. It might have given Alabama time to refocus and catch its breath. But the coaches had to make sure everyone was on the same page and knew what to do so that ball could get into the end zone.

This play, this decision, has further alienated a fan base, which was already somewhat divided. After 12 seasons as the head coach, people wonder if Richt can get Georgia where it hasn’t been in 30 years. Those who believe in Richt probably defend his decision more than those who question whether he’ll ever be able to win a national championship.

This was an unbelievable game. It was a great effort by Georgia to almost shock the world and beat Alabama. It’s a shame the tremendous performance will be overshadowed by one decision that cost Georgia a better chance to win the game.

And it’s something that will be talked about for years to come.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on Twitter@yahoo.com.

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