ATHENS - The final 15 seconds of the SEC championship game have been debated to death, to the point someone might end up writing a book about it. But one question hasn't really been asked: If the pass had fallen incomplete, and Georgia had one more play, what was it going to do?
Now, whether or not you were curious, we know.
At last Thursday's UGA Day meeting in Augusta, emcee Chuck Dowdle posed the question to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo: What was the next play call going to be? Bobo's answer is an insight into the play-calling process, but also a nod to two people:
Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow.
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Turns out, it wasn't a play that was in Georgia's playbook, or if it was it was inspired by Florida. Bobo said that in the lead-up to last year's showdown with Alabama, he and his staff studied the plays the Gators ran in their two SEC title games against Alabama. They zeroed in on the 2008 championship game, when Florida beat Alabama 31-20, scoring three touchdowns on passes inside the 10.
Alabama's personnel was obviously different from four years ago, but the defensive scheme hadn't changed much, led by head coach Nick Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart - the former Georgia player and coach who is one of Bobo's closest friends. Here's how Bobo explained the thought process:
“We had actually gone back to, I don’t know what it was, it was one of the Florida-Alabama games, where Alabama had given up three red zone scores to Florida. It was a play that Florida had actually ran against Alabama. It was an empty set, and had two primary front-side, and a double-slant backside. It was something from ’08 or ’09 that Tebow had completed against them. Because I remember after that game, Kirby was talking about how, ‘We just couldn’t stop them in the red zone.’ So we just studied that hard.
Then Bobo added with some matter-of-fact wistfulness: "We had some plans, we just didn’t have a chance to call those plays.”
While Bobo wasn't absolutely sure, it was likely the 2008 game that Bobo was referring to, because Tebow tossed three touchdowns of 3, 5 and 5 yards:
- On Florida's opening drive, the Gators had third-and-goal from the Alabama 3. It was an empty set, and Tebow took a shotgun snap, was quickly rushed, but found receiver Carl Moore in the left side of the end zone. Moore was in single coverage, bumped off his cornerback and went left, and caught the ball as he fell down.
- Late in the second quarter, Florida had third-and-goal from the 5. In another empty set, three receivers lined right. The far inside receiver was David Nelson, who was in single coverage from a strong safety. Nelson went to the end zone and curled slightly right, where Tebow hit him for the touchdown.
- The final touchdown of the game came on another 5-yard touchdown pass, this time to Riley Cooper. This was also an empty backfield, but Cooper was lined up far right in a five-receiver set. Cooper cut right, then cut in, and Tebow hit Cooper as he was cutting in.
In all probability, based on his description, Bobo was describing either the second or third touchdown. Either way, the idea was to force Alabama into single coverage and for Aaron Murray to make a quick read, perhaps right at the snap, and fire the pass in.
Of course, all of this became irrelevant once the clock ran out on the Bulldogs.
Dowdle asked Bobo how long it took him to get over the way the game ended. Bobo chuckled.
“Like probably everybody out here, I don’t think we’re ever gonna get over that game,” he said. “First meeting back with the players back, and the offense, I said: Men, people keep telling you you’ve gotta get over it and get ready to go. The bottom line is you’re never gonna get over it, you gotta learn to live with it, you’ve gotta regroup to play the next game, and get better the next day.
“We’ve all got ‘em, if you’ve been in this sport long enough. I’ve got a couple from high school, a couple from my playing days in college. And you’re gonna have them in coaching too. That’s just part of the game, that’s what makes it great. We were in that situation, we were in that game, and (are) proud of how hard our guys fought, how hard they played.”
And makes it hungrier to get back, Dowdle suggested.
“It does. It does. I’ve never been more hungry to have spring ball, anxious for the season,” Bobo said. “Usually everybody’s like, ‘Hey are you ready for the season?’ when you go to these (fan events), and I’m actually ready for a vacation this summer. But this year I’m itching to get back out there on the grass. Fortunately we’ve got some guys coming back and I think those guys are hungry too.”