COLUMBIA, S.C. — It didn’t end up mattering, but it could have for Georgia. The end of the first half was a debacle, thanks to mismanagement. A bit harsh? Those are Kirby Smart’s own words.
The clock ran out, with Georgia at South Carolina’s 29, sitting on its timeouts. No chance at a field goal, or a pass to the end zone.
In a game it ended up winning 28-14 — needing an onside kick return touchdown with 1:33 left to seal it — that sequence at the end of the first half nearly cost the Bulldogs.
“That was just a debacle, to be honest with you,” Smart said after the game.
So what happened? Brian Herrien had carried the ball deep into South Carolina territory, but a holding penalty pushed the ball back to the 29. At that point, there were 5 seconds left. Georgia still had two timeouts.
But before the ball was snapped, or even before the Bulldogs even knew what was happening, referee Hubert Owens announced that time had run out.
“We got some bad information,” Smart said. “We thought the clock was going to stop on the penalty, and it didn’t.”
It would have been a 46-yard field goal into the wind, so Georgia was going to try to pass it into the end zone. But in the midst of deciding that, and then deciding the play — not to mention where the line of scrimmage would be, the clock ran out.
Smart appeared to be arguing with the officials on the field that he had called timeout, but he didn’t mention that in his postgame press conference.
“The clock started and it was just mismanagement,” Smart said.
There was another curious instance in the fourth quarter which also could have loomed large, had Georgia not won.
Safety Quincy Mauger nearly had an interception, but after a brief wrestling match for the ball, officials ruled it a catch for South Carolina’s Kiel Pollard. That set up a fourth-and-6, and the Gamecocks converted the first down, going on to score to make it 21-14 with 1:40 left.
If the play had been ruled an interception — and pictures show it was at the very least debatable — then Georgia would have had the ball in South Carolina territory, leading 21-7. But the play wasn’t even reviewed, and Smart elected not to use a timeout to force a review.
“I actually thought about reviewing it, because it was such a big play in the game, changed the game,” Smart said. “But I know what they’re going to say. I mean I’m sitting there watching it: They called it a catch by the other guy, and they can’t reverse that because joint possession goes to them. So I was getting on Quincy, I wanted Quincy to make the play because that would’ve changed the whole outlook. …
“But I didn’t think reviewing it was going to do anything, because they’re going to come up and say, ‘Well it’s joint possession.’ Plus they review it anyway. They review every play. So they’d slow it down if they had to.”