NASHVILLE, Tenn. —There no longer is any danger that Mark Richt's debut season will be remembered as some idyllic exercise of overachievements.
A strong finish to the regular season might have caused some to forget the imperfections in Richt's first season as Georgia's head coach. If so, Friday's 20-16 Music City Bowl loss to Boston College provided more reminders than the coach needed that this team was not good enough to win when it was stacking up mistake after mistake.
Two failed fourth-down plays, another questionable fourth-down decision by Richt, four turnovers and nine penalties combined to place the proper final markings on Georgia's 8-4 season.
There is still reason to place much optimism on No. 16 Georgia's future, but the loss before an Adelphia Coliseum crowd of 46,125 — the majority wearing Georgia red — showed clearly where the Bulldogs must improve to realize those expectations.
"We moved it up and down the field all year long and got inside the 20 and messed things up,'' Richt said after the loss. "That has been the University of Georgia offense all year long. Inside the 20, for some reason, we just could not get it done.''
Sometimes the failings also came outside the 20. Such was the case on two fourth-quarter plays that went a long way toward sealing the Bulldogs' fate Friday night.
With Georgia still leading 16-13, it faced a fourth-and-5 play at the Boston College 33. After calling his first timeout of the second half to consider his options, Richt went for the first down. But Musa Smith, who gained five yards the only other time Georgia gave him the ball, tripped when approaching quarterback David Greene for the handoff.
With Smith almost in a crawl, Greene's handoff hit the tailback's helmet and fell to the ground, where it was recovered by Boston College defensive end Sean Guthrie.
Given an opportunity to put the game away, Georgia instead had given Boston College possession that would lead to its go-ahead touchdown on a 7-yard run by William Green, a junior who rushed for 149 yards.
Trailing 20-16, Georgia was moving impressively toward another scoring opportunity in the final minutes. Then, on a second-and-2 call from the Boston College 38, Georgia went for a deep pass. Greene threw a high, wobbly pass that hung in the Nashville night far too long.
Trying to prevent an interception, Georgia receiver Terrence Edwards was called for offensive pass interference, leaving the Bulldogs in a second-and-16 hole from which they would never recover.
"It was a great call,'' said Greene of the decision to throw deep. "I felt it was a good shot. I stepped up and I really made a poor throw. It was wobbling on me.''
With 1:24 left to play, Richt elected to punt on a fourth-and-12 play from the Georgia 48. It was a big gamble, because if the defense didn't hold, Georgia wouldn't get the ball again.
The defense did hold, and Georgia got the ball back at its 47 with 14 seconds left. Greene's first-down pass was incomplete, and he was sacked on the next play to end the game.
Why not go for the first down on fourth and 12?
"It was a tough chance,'' Richt said. "I thought we would hold them and ... we would have (the ball back with) 30 or 40 seconds, which is not insurmountable, but it took a little longer than we hoped.''
Said Greene: "At first, I did think we were going to stay out there (and go for the first down). But what Coach (Richt) wanted, happened. We had another shot at it.''
Added Haynes: "Coach Richt made the decision and we stuck behind it. I didn't question his decision at all.''
With the win, Boston College (8-4) snapped a 21-game losing streak against Top 25 teams, a streak that began in 1995.
Meanwhile, Georgia's four-game winning streak in bowl games ended.
When it opened the game with a reverse from Fred Gibson to Decory Bryant that was good for an 86-yard kickoff return, setting up a quick two-play touchdown drive, it appeared Georgia would be too quick for Boston College.
Gibson finished with six catches for 109 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown reception. Verron Haynes added 132 yards rushing, including a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Georgia held advantages of 23-16 in first downs and 410-306 in total yards and even contained Boston College's primary weapon, Green, for most of the second half. Even so, the Bulldogs could not overcome their mistakes.
After completing his first 11 passes in the season opener and passing for 11 touchdowns with only four interceptions in the first six games, Greene lost some of his momentum late in the season and finally looked like a freshman in the bowl game.
One of Greene's two interceptions came on a deflection, but he made a poor decision on his second interception. He almost threw a third interception late in the game.
Even the usually reliable Haynes — one of the few senior starters for Georgia — suffered his first lost fumble of the year.
"We moved the ball all day and couldn't put points on the board,'' Haynes said.
"You move the ball from the 20 to the 20 and get inside the red zone and can't capitalize, that hurts the worst.''
Added Richt: "The future is bright. It's just disappointing to end on a losing note.''