Not a day goes by that former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray isn’t asked about “The Pass.”
As Larry Munson, the late, great radio voice of the Georgia Bulldogs, would say: “Get The Picture.”
It is the 2012 SEC championship game in Atlanta as No. 2 Alabama met No. 3 Georgia. The winner of the game would get a date with No. 1 Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl for the BCS national championship.
“I heard from some of my Notre Dame buddies and they knew they couldn’t beat either us or Alabama,” said Murray, who is STILL the SEC’s All-time leading passer. “The winner of our game was going to win the national championship.”
Alabama had taken a 32-28 lead over Georgia on a 44-yard touchdown pass from A.J. McCarron to Amari Cooper with 3:15 left. There was still time for Georgia.
Murray quickly took his team down the field and pass to tight end Arthur Lynch put Georgia at the Alabama nine-yard line with the final seconds winding down. Murray’s next throw was supposed to be fade into the end zone where, if it fell incomplete, there would still be time for one more play.
But Murray’s pass was tipped and the ball fell into the arms of Georgia receiver Chris Conley at the Alabama five-yard line. The clock kept running. Georgia was out of timeouts.
“It was the longest eight or nine seconds in my life,” said Murray. “There had to be some way to get that clock stopped. But there wasn’t.”
Murray says he still gets questions about two plays from his career:
“The Prayer at Jordan-Hare (a miracle touchdown pass for Auburn in 2013) and the pass against Alabama,” said Murray. “I will never escape those plays.”
Murray said he will be doing an event with former Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, the starter on the 2017 team that lost to Alabama for the national championship.
“I guess they put us together because we’ve both been stabbed in the heart by Alabama,” said Murray.
It has been well documented that Georgia has not won a national championship since 1980, when Herschel Walker led the Bulldogs to a 12-0 record and a win over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.
But over the last 41 years there have been a number of Georgia teams that, for a bounce of the ball, were good enough to win the national championship.
Here is a look at five of those in chronological order:
1981 (10-2): Among the people I talked to this was a strongly debated choice. Despite the final record this might have been Georgia’s best team under Vince Dooley. Georgia’s only regular-season loss was at Clemson (13-3) which would go on to win the national championship. Georgia turned the ball over a remarkable nine times. Georgia went on to a 10-1 regular season, another SEC championship, and was No. 2 when the Bulldogs played Dan Marino and Pitt in the Sugar Bowl. Marino’s late 33-yard touchdown to John Brown beat the Bulldogs 24-20. Had Georgia won and No. 1 Clemson lost to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, the Bulldogs would have likely been national champions.
“I’ve always thought our 1981 team could play with anybody,” said Jeff Dantzler, a noted Georgia football historian. “We beat nine teams by double digits. Buck Belue and Lindsay Scott were seniors on that team.”
Herschel Walker had a career high 1,891 yards rushing for the 1981 Georgia team.
1982 (11-1): Georgia opened the season with a 13-7 win over Clemson, the defending national champions, and then rolled to an 11-0 record in the regular season. The Bulldogs were No. 1 when they met No. 2 Penn State in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship. The difference in the game, which Penn State won 27-23, was a 46-yard touchdown pass from Todd Blackledge to Greg Garrity in the fourth quarter. The loss denied Georgia its second national championship in three seasons. Junior Herschel Walker won the Heisman Trophy with 1,752 rushing yards. He would not return for his senior season.
2002 (13-1): This was Mark Richt’s second team at Georgia and arguably his best. The Bulldogs opened with a 31-28 win over Clemson and then four weeks later went to Alabama and won 27-25 on a late Billy Bennett field goal. Then there was a late touchdown pass from David Greene to Michael Johnson to give the Bulldogs a 24-21 win and put the Bulldogs into the SEC championship game for the first time ever. Georgia beat Arkansas 30-3 for the SEC championship, the Bulldogs’ first in 20 years. The only hiccup on the season was a 20-13 loss to Florida in Jacksonville.
“That team played with a tremendous amount of confidence,” said Greene, who was a sophomore on that team. “
The question is whether or not Georgia, if it had been undefeated, would have made the BCS championship game over 13-0 Ohio State or a 12-0 Miami. Had their been a four-team playoff Georgia would have been in.
This was the first Georgia team to win 13 games.
2012 (12-2): Georgia’s only loss during the regular season was 35-7 at South Carolina. Murray threw for a Georgia record 3,893 yards and the Bulldogs beat all three of their biggest rivals (Florida, Auburn, and Tennessee) for only the fourth time in history. As noted above, Georgia’s 32-28 loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game kept the Bulldogs out of the BCS title game against Notre Dame.
2017 (13-2): A 20-19 win at Notre Dame on Sept. 9 launched this team to a berth in the CFP championship game against Alabama. Led by a freshman quarterback in Jake Fromm, Georgia rolled through its schedule until a 40-17 loss at Auburn in November. Two weeks later Georgia and Auburn had rematch in the SEC championship game. This time Georgia won 28-7 to advance to the CFP. In the semifinals at the Rose Bowl, Georgia posted one of the biggest wins in school history, beating Oklahoma and Baker Mayfield 54-48 in overtime. In the CFP national championship game with Alabama, Georgia held a double-digit lead. But freshman Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench to lead Alabama to a 26-23 walk off victory and yet another heartache for the Bulldogs.
So over the past 41 years Georgia has been close to winning a national championship but has not been able to close the deal. Could the drought end Monday night in Indy?
“You would have to say that we are due,” said Murray.