Dealing with a painful - and constant - reminder

semerson@macon.comJanuary 6, 2014 

Georgia Auburn Football

Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera (52) reacts after Auburn Tigers scored the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. Auburn won 43-38. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jason Getz)


ATHENS - It's been impossible to avoid. And most of the time, the members of the Georgia football team do their best to avoid it.

The miracle touchdown pass that enabled Auburn to beat Georgia has been replayed endlessly over the past month, and will be again Monday night, with the Tigers in the national championship game. When the infamous play - the term used around the Bulldogs, at least - appears on the TV, the reaction is usually the same.

"I just turn it off," junior receiver Michael Bennett said. "I don't even want to see it."

"Change the channel," senior safety Connor Norman said, with a rueful smile.

Norman was asked if it's cathartic at all to see the play. He shook hiis head.

"It doesn't feel good anytime you watch it. You get that feeling in your stomach," he said. Maybe one day that'll go away."

Junior receiver Chris Conley is in a unique position. Last season he was on the receiving end, literally, of the fateful final play of the SEC championship. It was a painful moment for Conley, who didn't really do anything wrong, just following his instincts by catching it.

So when it comes to this year's most painful, and talked-about, play, Conley is one of the few who said he watches it.

"I actually kind of pause every single time I see it, and can't believe it. It's one of those surreal moments. It's kind of painful," Conley said. "But you'll get over it eventually. I don't think we've gotten there yet. A lot of people haven't. You never want to live in the past, but that is one hard moment to get over."

Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons, the two safeties actually involved in the play, weren't available to the media this month. Harvey-Clemons, in his only interview since the game, said it of course still bothered him.

Cornerback Damian Swann, who was on the field for the play, is one of the other few who can stand re-watching the play.

"You watch it. It ain't really much you can do," Swann said. "It's one of those things we've gotta take as a learning experience because we can't do anything about it. We can't re-do it."

It would be impossible to keep track of how many times that replay has been on television the past month. Bennett, like many players a regular watcher of ESPN and other sports channels, estimated it was "quite a bit," with one proviso:

"But thanks to that Alabama game you don't see it as much."

Conley said his experience in the Alabama game taught him not to hold what happened against his defensive teammates.

"I know what those guys feel like, that's why I don't point fingers and blame them," Conley said. "We lost that game as a team. There's so many things that can happen before that play that would have won us that game. It's a humongous, huge lesson for us. And a great way for those young guys to learn never to make that mistake again."

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