ATLANTA – Second-and-26 is over.
The national championship game is a memory.
So says Kirby Smart, head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia, of course, lost to Alabama in overtime in last season’s national title game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, just down the road from the College Football Hall of Fame. Smart was asked about the loss on Tuesday at SEC Media Days.
Smart has had time to contemplate Tua Tagovailoa’s game-winning touchdown pass and process its ramifications, and says he’s over it.
“We watched it and evaluated it as a staff afterwards,” said Smart, a longtime Alabama assistant before taking the head coaching job at his alma mater. “Obviously I see it on replays and different ESPN highlights. … I think that’s something you guys think about a lot, but not really us.
“We’re on to next year.”
That next year, Smart’s third season at Georgia, arrives shortly. Preseason practice begins next month.
And there’s something to be learned from the loss to Alabama, even if Smart doesn’t want to dwell on the result.
“I think now payers can use that experience to grow, and I think that’s big for our program and understanding that if you do things a certain way that you can get to certain places,” the coach said. “We just have to be able to finish it when we get there.”
Junior defensive back J.R. Reed isn’t looking back.
“You’re sick to your stomach when it happens,” he said. “Next day you watch the film. After that, move on.”
The Bulldogs won the SEC championship, finished 13-1 and defeated Oklahoma in a playoff semifinal. But like the national title clash with Alabama, that’s in the past.
Georgia enters 2018 without star running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, linebacker Roquan Smith and some other stars who have moved along to the National Football League. Quarterback Jake Fromm is back, along with four starters on the offensive line. Only four starters return on defense.
“This season for us is going to be simple,” Smart said. “It’s going to be the measure of potential versus effectiveness.”