Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt reacts to a reporter during the post game press conference after being defeated by the Alabama Crimson Tide 32-28 in the 2012 SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
ATLANTA -- A question that has dogged the Bulldogs on and off all season sparked a feisty exchange at Saturday's SEC Championship post game press conference.
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680 The Fan's Chuck Oliver asked University of Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt about his and quarterback Aaron Murray's ability to perform in big games.
Richt: I don't know what you're saying. Why don't you just say straight up what you're trying to say?
Oliver: There are people who say that you and Aaron Murray specifically come up short on the biggest stage against the biggest opponents. Do you have any response to that?
Richt: Is that what you're saying or you're trying to say everybody else? If that's what you're saying. Are you saying that?
Oliver: No... No, I'm saying that's what I hear every day on the radio.
Richt: Well that's for you to worry about then. If that's what you say, then I'll answer the question. If you think other people are saying that, I'm not worried about that.
Oliver has openly criticized Richt and Murray's performance on the radio before, but did not insert himself into Saturday night's exchange.
The press conference moderator moved on, opening the floor to other questions.
Hearing none, Richt thanked reporters and got up to leave, but then stopped to defend his team.
"I want to say something," Richt said. "If anybody thinks our guys didn't play their tail off, that Aaron Murray didn't play his tail off, they're crazy. I mean that's just, that's unbelievable somebody would even bring that up."
The Bulldogs were within five yards and a few seconds of beating Alabama for the SEC Championship and a spot in the BCS National title game.
Instead, Georgia will play Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl
on New Year's Day.
Oliver responded Monday afternoon to the controversy on his radio show. He said he couldn't have picked a worse time to ask the question, calling his own judgment "awful, wretched, and horrible." He said the situation was compounded by the fact Richt had just stepped off the field from a tough loss, and several reporters had continually asked another question as they arrived late to the press conference.
Oliver said he didn't communicate well the fact that he didn't agree with the critics, and was trying to give Richt a chance to respond to them.
"After what I just saw, I've got no criticism of you today," Oliver said he should have told Richt. "But I know well enough after doing this for twelve years that when I show up at three o'clock on Monday, there are going to be callers and emailers saying 'I don't care what happened, I'm looking at the final score and we lost again.'"
Oliver said he was never one to hide behind the "people say" tactic of indirect questioning. He said he'd criticized Richt to his face before, but saw no need to do so Saturday. He closed the explanation of the question by saying Richt had called him a few hours before the show, and the coach told Oliver he had a short memory.
"We talked and he said, 'By the time you left the Georgia Dome on Saturday, all was forgiven. I'm fine, I was over it,'" Oliver said Richt told him. "He said, 'As well as they played, I thought you were talking about you, that you had this criticism about Aaron Murray this and whatever, I understand now what you were saying.'"