ATHENS — The final painful play of the National Championship Game is not showing on a loop on monitors of the Georgia football facility. It doesn’t have to be. It’s still playing in the minds of many Bulldogs players.
“It’s something I dream about every night,” senior wide receiver Terry Godwin said last week. “One play. We work so hard and got there and we came up one play short.”
The coaches also don’t talk to their players about it, or use it as motivation. They don’t have to. The players already are using it.
“It’s not going to stop until we get back,” junior receiver Mecole Hardman said. “That’s the way I think all these guys think. When we’re out there practicing we’re practicing for a reason. You lose a game like that, you don’t lose it until you get back to that spot and actually win it. That’s all we’re thinking. That’s our motivation for this year.”
Of course, the subject itself probably only comes up when players are asked about it, as coach Kirby Smart pointed out. Smart doesn’t want the pain of coming up so short to be the focal point of this season.
Or any season, for that matter.
“I would rather have some kind of intrinsic motivation of ‘I want to be the best player I can be. I want to get to be the best I can be.’ I don’t want it to be because of this, because you may not always have that. You may not always have that ability to generate that motivation,” Smart said. “We don’t really talk about it. We talk about the lessons we learned in coverage, the lessons we learned in keeping a quarterback in the pocket, protecting the ball.
“We learned lessons from the game, but we’re not using the game as a mantra or a battle cry. I just don’t think that’s what you want to do.”
Smart also pointed to a couple other factors that stop it from being the rallying cry for 2018:
• So many players from that game are gone, including most of the defensive starters and key offensive players.
• Alabama isn’t on the schedule for 2018. At least not yet.
“I don’t believe in motivating through fear or motivating just through revenge,” Smart said. “Now, can revenge be a factor? Yeah, but we don’t have Alabama on our schedule next year — not the regular-season schedule. We’ve got a lot more to worry about than that.”
Georgia did achieve much through the revenge tour last year, avenging 2016 losses to Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and Tennessee, and then beating Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. So if Georgia does run into Alabama again, whether it be the SEC Championship Game or another playoff game, then surely it will come up.
But for now, it appears only players bringing it up. And even then there are limits.
“We don’t linger on it. We don’t try to get down on it. We just look at it as motivation for everything we do,” Hardman said. “Now that you get there and you’ve set the standard for where we’re at right now, all we know right now is this team has got to get back to where we were. We use that as motivation. That’s what will get us better each and every day.”