Reggie Davis made several big plays for Georgia on Saturday. The one he didn't make, however, will be the one most remember.
The junior wide receiver took a punt return 70 yards back for a touchdown and also reeled in three receptions for 101 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown. But he dropped what would have been a touchdown to tie the game with just over four minutes remaining of Georgia's 38-31 loss to Tennessee.
Afterward the game, Davis wasn't thinking of his first two touchdowns. As he took his time answering questions, even briefly lowering his head and covering his face with his hands, the effects of the play were wearing on him.
“I could have had five [touchdowns], but if we lost, it doesn’t even matter,” Davis said. “I really can’t believe I just did that. Growing up, you play in this game, and you think, man, I’d love to score a game-winning touchdown. Boom. Your opportunity gets here so fast, and I pull that.”
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In the moments immediately after the drop, Davis stood in the end zone, clearly shaken by what happened. After returning to the huddle, his teammates encouraged him to shake it off and to go out and make another play. While the Bulldogs still had time to make up for it, the sting was apparent. It only grew stronger once the game clock hit zero.
The misplay casts a shadow over one of Davis’ best games at Georgia. With the passing offense playing inconsistent through a good portion of the game, he stood as one of the team’s go-to targets. He caught three of Greyson Lambert’s 15 completions, just two behind Malcolm Mitchell for the most on the team.
Add in the versatility he showed on the punt return, where he covered much more than 70 yards as he juked and cut his way through Tennessee defenders, and it’s clear he was a major reason why Georgia walked away with 31 points. Alas, the drop in the checkered-board end zone stands as the most critical.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt didn’t hold the same view as Davis. As disappointing as the drop was, he was quick to praise him for the way he performed in all aspects of the game.
“I think Reggie was playing his best game,” Richt said. “Reggie’s on kickoff return, punt return and he was playing on offense just about every snap. He played his tail off. “I’m sure he’s as sick or sicker than anybody that he dropped that ball at the end there, but it didn’t take away from how hard he played and I how I feel about him. It was a great, great game for him.”
Richt added even more to Davis’ performance. The head coach said Davis suffered a shoulder injury at some point in the contest. With the option of sitting it out, Davis shook it off and returned to the field. In Richt’s words, it was apparent that in a day filled with hurt and heartache, Davis’ grit stood out.
The bright side for Davis is he has time to make up for the mistake. Georgia has six regular-season games remaining in 2015 and is still battling in a conference known for wacky and unpredictable outcomes.
His game on Saturday ended with a major blemish. But despite his personal opinion, it cannot erase what he did early on. It could potentially be a launching point for Davis to become one of Georgia’s primary receivers and as a reliable option on special teams. That depends entirely on if he can shake off the way things went down.
For Davis, moving on will be easier said than done.
“I’m lost for words right now, man,” Davis said. “It’s eating me alive inside. We all know what happened. That’s tough to live with, right there.”