In response to my depressing column last week that reveled in misery, here are some final thoughts on the national championship game last week.
There has been much discussion of the horrible officiating and how it effectively cost Georgia a national championship. There is no getting around the fact that the officiating was abysmal and that all the consequential missed calls and no-calls broke for Alabama and against Georgia.
But I just do not buy the conspiracy talk.
It’s valid to say the offsides call on Tyler Simmons, when he clearly wasn’t, on the blocked punt was monumental and robbed Georgia of an incredible opportunity to begin to put the game away. One also has to consider two Alabama players false-started on the play, which was not called. Had that been called and Simmons’ offsides not called, the block would not have stood and Alabama would have been punting 5 yards further back.
The no-call on the painfully obvious face-mask on D’Andre Swift was brutal, and there’s also been some discussion that there was a false start on Alabama’s game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. On the latter, realistically, as Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s DawgNation points out, it was very close, “not egregious, and ultimately didn’t really affect the play.”
No doubt it’s incredibly frustrating when officials affect the game, but, in the end, you can’t solely blame them. If you’re a Georgia fan and you’re going to hang this loss completely on the officials, then you have to be willing to go back to 2015 and admit that an inadvertent whistle on a muffed punt by Georgia Southern, which led to a game-tying touchdown by Georgia (which wound up escaping with a win) completely swung the complexion of the game.
Should there be more accountability placed on officials?
Yes. That crew should have to undergo extra training and perhaps a short-term suspension from calling any playoff games, conference championship games, etc.
But there are always going to be things teams could do better to overcome it.
Georgia lost this game because they couldn’t hold a two-score lead in the second half, but that’s not even 100 percent on them. Alabama is the top college football program for a reason. They’re incredibly talented and they have the best coach of his generation, possibly of all time.
As long as we’re playing the “If this hadn’t happened, this would have” game, if senior safety Dominick Sanders isn’t uncharacteristically out of position and isn’t fooled by Alabama freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the game-winning touchdown pass may have never happened. But I’m not going to hang that on Sanders.
He was a great player for Georgia, made some big plays in last week’s game and had a huge interception against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl that led to a go-ahead touchdown. Tagovailoa, as seen is very good and he made THE play when it counted the most.
Sanders’ mistake left cornerback Malcolm Parrish exposed to get burned. Another senior who has been very solid for Georgia, but who just wasn’t the same after coming back from an injury. It’s reasonable to ask why he was in the game in that spot, just like it’s reasonable to ask why the ball didn’t find its way in the hands of Sony Michel more often when he would have been much more effective against a strong Alabama defensive front than Nick Chubb had a chance to be.
But I’m not going to harangue coach Kirby Smart, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and the coaching staff for making some errors because their overall body of work has helped the team get to this position.
And I’m not going to harangue Jake Fromm for making a couple of critical errors, freshman mistakes if you will. The interception, on an ill-advised throw, when Georgia had just gotten a turnover in Alabama territory and had a golden opportunity to put the game out of reach, can’t happen, but if it doesn’t bounce off the Alabama defender’s helmet just perfectly for the Crimson Tide, maybe nothing bad happens.
Fromm showed us throughout the entire season what a special talent he is and what a great leader he is going to become.
This game provided Georgia with plenty of learning opportunities, plenty of opportunities to get better. I have full confidence Smart and the great collection of talent he is amassing will eventually lead Georgia to a national title and hopefully multiple ones.
I’m not saying it’s going to happen next year, in Smart’s third season, like it did for Alabama in year three under Nick Saban.
People have to be realistic about the fact we’re losing a special senior class, as well as juniors Roquan Smith (the best college linebacker I’ve seen) and Trenton Thompson (a vital piece on the defensive line) and that we made it through the season without any major injuries (the one to Jacob Eason, but we all see what happened with Fromm).
And I’m not abandoning my pessimistic feeling about my sports teams when it comes to championship games and moments that I wrote about last week.
But it’s undeniable the future is bright and promising.
And the best thing to do at this point is believe.
Scott Thompson is editor of the Barrow News-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.