Aaron probably knows better than anyone else that no one does pain quite like the Georgia Bulldogs. In fact, he’s an expert at it. Twice in the last four years I saw Aaron leave the field after a stunning loss - once to Alabama and once to Auburn.
We can now add Tennessee to the long list of painful losses for the Bulldogs in the 2010s. Had I known what was coming I would have encouraged Aaron to leave as he's seen enough of this sort of thing.
Teams in the SEC lose - everyone in the SEC has lost a game since the start of the 2015 season.
Teams in the SEC get blown out - everyone in the SEC not named Alabama has been beaten by more than 20 points since the start of the 2015 season.
Teams in the SEC lose in spectacular fashion - Georgia this week; LSU last week; Gators over the Vols in 2015; the Hogs over the Rebels last season; Alabama’s kick six… you get the point. This is a wild league.
But no one has lost as painfully as these Bulldogs have since the 2012 SEC Championship - a loss that was painful not just because of the fashion by which UGA lost - storming to the shadow of the end zone only to come up four yards and seconds short - but that it cost them a national title.
We can’t quite say the same thing this week - UGA was never going to win the national title this season - but it probably would have won the SEC East as a result of a win yesterday… at least it would have had a strangle hold on the division.
But that is no more.
What’s seems to make the pain even more dramatic for the Bulldogs is that UGA doesn’t just lose games in a regular way… its often quite spectacular.
Consider: Georgia has lost 14 games since the 2012 Alabama game. Seven of them have been on the last play of the game. Three of those, the ones listed above, have come in either the most improbable fashion possible (Prayer at Jordan-Hare and 2016 Tennessee) or in the biggest game of the year at the four-yard line; 2012 Alabama.
I’ve not yet talked about the 2014 Georgia Tech miracle, which was a lot like this game. The Dawgs took the ball down the field to win the game win with :18 left on the clock. You know the rest of what happens.
In other words, in the last half decade more than quarter of the times UGA loses, it loses in the manner in which we saw last night. No other team in the SEC can say that. I’m not sure anyone else in sports can say that.
That means that in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016 - UGA has suffered a loss the likes of which teams usually suffers about once a decade. Perhaps the sporting Gods knew UGA would suffer enough pain watching Brian Schottenheimer’s offense last year that they didn’t bother this sort of misery five years in a row.
David Ching, my longtime frenemy who works at ESPN now, tweeted that UGA "has been on wrong side of two of the four least-likely comebacks in the last decade."
It wasn't always this way. Remember the 1990s?
Twice that decade we saw dramatic, crazy endings… 1996 Auburn and 1999 Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs scrambled down the field and Mike Bobo threw up a desperation pass that ended up in the end zone. The Dawgs went on to win the game in four overtimes. It was amazing. A few years later, UGA had a certain win stolen from them thanks to incompetent officiating when Jasper Sanks “fumbled” around the Georgia Tech goal line. The Jackets stole that win in Atlanta - their only win in the state’s capital in the last quarter century.
Those two things happened in a decade. These four things have happened in fewer than five completed seasons.
To be clear, however, UGA has won tight games at the end as well - just not in this decade. Hobnail Boot; Lindsey Scott; 2002 Auburn. Georgia’s overtime wins over Georgia Tech and Tennessee in 2013 were spectacular, but they weren’t improbable.
Lately UGA hasn’t just lost at the end; its lost at the end in a way that leads SportsCenter… in December during the Year in Review segment.
This will come back around. Things like this always do. Consider that since Auburn’s back-to-back miracles in 2013, the Tigers are 7-11 in SEC play. Miracles have been in short order lately on the Plains.
There is always a yin to the yang.
More than anything, though, UGA needs to start creating its own fortune. On Saturday UGA won the game before losing it, before winning it again, before finally losing it in heartbreaking fashion because time ran out. Maybe UGA will be more alert to the 3,597th, 3,598th, 3,599th and 3,600th seconds of the game as it is to the other 3,596 from now on. Because those four seconds cost them the game and probably a division title.
That’s the only possible way to avoid this in the future. Attention to detail - that’s where Kirby Smart is dead-on correct. What happened yesterday wasn’t luck. We talk about luck - perhaps we are just trying to be nice to people. Luck doesn’t happen in sports. People make things happen or they don’t.
And, no, this won’t get better any time soon. This ending will get shown on a loop for the rest of time. As much as UGA fans love to watch Herschel Walker run over Bill Bates and Verron Haynes’ Hobnail Boot… now this madness has entered into SEC lore. Tennessee didn’t have much to look back on in this series as defining moments, but now they do.
It was as improbable as the Vols’ orange is mix and match.
At least poor Aaron Murray didn’t have to jog off the field for this one… just off the sideline. I’m sure that was painful enough.