Mark Richt regrets not reminding players to bat down pass in loss at Auburn

ATHENS, Ga. — The play that transcended the college football world continues to be dissected at Georgia.


Auburn’s game-winning 73-yard touchdown pass with 25 seconds left Saturday made the NBC Nightly News on Monday.

Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons deflected the pass that safety Tray Matthews was trying to intercept and it fell into the hands of Ricardo Louis, who took it into the end zone.

Georgia coach Mark Richt echoed the comments of cornerback Damian Swann a day earlier.

Coaches, he said, never told the players during the timeout before the fourth-and-18 desperation pass to bat down the ball in the 43-38 Bulldogs loss.

“Obviously at the end of the game, you’ve got to know to knock a ball down in that situation,” Richt said. “We had a timeout prior to that. I’m in there. (Defensive coordinator Todd) Grantham is in there. We’re all in there. I could have easily said, ‘Hey guys, if the ball’s launched deep, bat it down.’ I could have said that. That’s a good reminder for our young bunch of guys back there, you know.”

Nobody did, he said.

“I, quite frankly, didn’t think it was time that they were going to launch one,” Richt said. “To me, there was enough time to move the chains. We weren’t thinking they were going to launch a bomb into super deep coverage. You really shouldn’t throw a post into that look. You’ve got two or three guys deeper than the guy. They launched it and we didn’t bat it down. I certainly could have said, ‘Hey, if that ball’s anywhere where you could knock it down, don’t think about pick, think about knocking the ball down because it ends the game in essence.’ I had my chance to coach that up and didn’t do it.”

Said Grantham: “At the end of the day, you’ve got to percentage-wise knock it down. Don’t want to tip it up.”

Grantham showed his players this week a clip from the Ravens-Broncos playoff game last year when the Ravens got a 70-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in regulation with a pass over the top of the Broncos secondary and went on to win in double overtime.

“My point was that’s why you celebrate in the locker room because you won a game, you finished a game,” he said. “It’s never over until it’s over. You’ve got to play every play and finish the game out.”

Richt said a Hail Mary would have been considered more likely if Auburn was 50 or 55 yards from the end zone and there were only a few seconds remaining.

“It wasn’t really a typical Hail Mary situation,” he said. “There was a dig route and a post and some other concepts underneath to read. ... He let it rip and it turned out to be a good thing for them.”

Richt said the players and coaches work to defend Hail
Mary situations every week in practice.

“We bat it down every Thurs­day,” Richt said.

Added Grantham: “I’m sure it’s something that if they’re put in that situation again, they’ll know what to do.”

Some thought that Auburn should have been called for targeting on the final play of the game when defensive end Dee Ford hit quarterback Aaron Murray after Georgia had reached the 20-yard line and Murray’s pass fell incomplete.

Murray was asked about it often this week. He said he didn’t think it was targeting because “he pretty much hit me right in the chest.”

“It was a hard hit,” Richt said. “I don’t even know what a targeting is anymore sometimes. I’ll look at this one and it is and I’ll look at another one and they say it’s not. I’m like, ‘What’s the difference?’ ”

I think it’s been a very difficult thing for everybody to define. I do think it will be the No. 1 rule that will be addressed to try to figure out what’s the best way to move forward. It’s been confusing, it’s been problematic in a lot of ways.”