JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –The irony is these are the situations that Reggie Davis specializes in. Even when Isaiah McKenzie was wowing everybody with sensational touchdown returns last year as a freshman, Davis was the designated punt returner when the Bulldogs were backed up toward their own goal.
Yet he lost his way Saturday against Florida. Quite literally.
The junior receiver and kick-return specialist tried to field a Florida punt inside the Georgia 10-yard-line — the absolute basic rule in that situation — and he muffed it. The ball slipped between Davis’ hands just inside the 5-yard-line and bounded on into the end zone. Nick Washington recovered it in the end zone for a gift-wrapped Gators’ touchdown on what would be the last play of the first quarter.
Davis laid face down on the turf with his hands over his helmet. But there was nowhere to hide.
“I’ve been doing that since I’ve been here,” Davis said of deep returns. “When I was in the air and I moved, it felt like I ran forward and ran back, so I thought I was back where I started. But in reality I had run back to the 5. I really shouldn’t have moved from the get-go. But, you know, what happened, happened. It’s part of the game.”
Indeed, Davis broke the cardinal rule of punt returners — not realizing exactly where he was on the field.
“You’re supposed to put your heels at 10,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “If it goes over your head, you let it go. That’s just basics. I think he might have touched it around the 4, or something like that. Obviously that was a bad decision. He knows it. Everybody knows that you should let that ball go if you know football.”
Davis should know that more than anybody.
“Reggie’s always been the guy in that situation anyway, the guy to make the right decision on the short pooch kids or whatever you want to call them,” Richt said. “That’s always been his role.”
It’s been a tough year for Davis in terms of momentously negative plays. He dropped what should have been a 56-yard touchdown pass when Greyson Lambert delivered a perfectly-placed pass late in fourth quarter against Tennessee. That would have tied a game that Georgia eventually lost by a touchdown.
But nobody in the Georgia locker room was down on Davis or pointing to that play as the reason the Bulldogs lost the game.
“No, it was too early in the game for that to be a defining moment,” fellow receiver Malcolm Mitchell said.
Davis wasn’t so sure.
“It was definitely a big play,” Davis said. “They got the touchdown. We blocked the extra point, which was good. But as an offense we didn’t come back and execute the game plan and wew never got a roll going. That’s why the score was what it was.”