And that might be shortchanging it a little bit. After all, one could make the argument that the 2012 SEC Championship Game was a defining moment in the conference’s history. That game was the apex of the SEC’s power - and the winner of that game was going to go on to win the conference’s 7th national title in a row.
The SEC hasn’t won a national title since.
National title or not, the game was a difficult blow to the Bulldogs as they had play mighty Alabama toe-to-toe and appeared on their way to victory in the late stages of the game.
“I think it was a game that showed that we could play with the big boys,” quarterback Aaron Murray told me this summer. “It showed that we were there.”
With three minutes left, Alabama scored the go-ahead touchdown when A.J. McCarron hit play Amari Cooper on a 45-yard touchdown pass. Georgia’s offense then went three and out. The Tide got the ball back, but couldn’t salt the game away. Georgia’s defense forced a three and out and called all three timeouts to stop the clock.
Murray and the Bulldogs got the ball back at the Georgia 15-yard line - the the Dawgs were off. After picking up a fist down and moving the ball to near the Georgia 30-yard line, Murray seemingly threw what he thought was an interception to Dee Milner.
“I thought it was picked,” Murray admitted. “I didn’t see until the sideline. Bobo got in the headsets and said: It wasn’t a pick get the boys.”
And Murray did. The next play he hit Arthur Lynch to get the ball to the Georgia 43; then throw a strike to Tavarres King to move the ball to the Alabama 35 with 30 seconds. Lynch then caught another ball to give Georgia the ball at the Bama 7.
With 15 seconds to play the ball was spotted down; Georgia snapped it with nine second left. Murray threw a ball intended to hit Malcolm Mitchell in the corner of the end zone. Mitchell, who was in one-on-one coverage, was to run a comeback route and catch the game-winning touchdown at the front of the end zone.
If he didn’t get it, Georgia would have another play to run with about three seconds left on the clock.
But the ball was tipped one second after the snap, and sophomore receiver Chris Conley caught the ball.
“The catch was unfortunate,” Murray said.
Conley hit the turf of the Dome with seconds, and Georgia’s shot at its first national title since 1980, expiring.
“It felt like those four seconds took an hour,” Murray said. “It was weird to go the entire field, and then to have that play happen - it wasn’t the way you would draw it up or think about it.”
Murray wanted the team to line up - even though it was too late.
“I was like: ‘Come on we can do this,’” he said. “It was disbelief. We had come that far to go to the national championship.”
It didn’t happen. But had that play gone Georgia’s way and the Bulldogs won the national title under Richt he would be thought of totally different today. It was one of the defining, if not the disappointing moment of his career in Athens.