We see it all the time. A defensive player picks up a questionable loose ball and runs with it until the whistle blows. Ninety-nine percent of the time the play is blown dead, but hopping on a loose ball is something defensive coaches ingrain into their players.
And why not? The ball is live until an official says it isn't. It'd be foolish to leave a potential turnover on the field.
Georgia's FG Return for a TD vs. LSU in the SEC Championship Game
TOUCHDOWN GEORGIA! pic.twitter.com/ZYQMLhMpGX
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 3, 2022
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels led the Tiger offense on a lengthy 13-play drive to set up a 32-yard field goal for kicker Jacob Podlesny. Exactly the kind of drive you want to have against Georgia's elite defense -- milk the clock and put points on the board.
What should've been a chip shot, however, turned out to be a disaster. The Bulldogs broke through the line of scrimmage and blocked Podlesny's kick. It was a brutal blow for LSU, who had little margin for error against the No. 1 team in the land. But it only got worse.
LSU and Georgia froze, thinking the ball was dead, but no whistle was blown. A quick reminder: a blocked extra point is dead if the defensive team recovers. However, it's live if the kicking team recovers. That rule doesn't apply to field goals. A blocked kick is a live ball for everyone.
Both teams were still processing the block when Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith picked up the ball. He looked around like a lost puppy, making sure what he was doing was allowed, and when he didn't hear a whistle, he took it 96 yards to the house.
In the blink of an eye, Georgia stole all the momentum and crushed LSU's spirit. Of course, the Bulldogs went on to win 50-30 and secured the top overall seed in the College Football Playoff.
I'm a believer that the best coached teams catch breaks. That's why you see Nick Saban's Alabama teams seemingly get lucky when their backs are against the wall. Favor tends to be on your side when you're prepared.
That's the case here, too. Georgia made a great play by blocking the kick, but they made the heads-up play by jumping on the loose ball. It was a huge and deserved break for them and devastating for LSU.
Let this be a reminder to always play until the whistle.
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