January 2, 2012

Walsh takes the blame



TAMPA, Fla.- Senior kicker Blair Walsh faced the music with the media Monday after missing two field goals in overtime that led to Georgia's 33-30 loss to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl.

The Fort Lauderdale native marched into the interview area after emerging from the Bulldog locker room, plopped himself on the waiting chair and waited for the questions that were about to be fired his way.

"Most people avoid you a little bit," said Walsh, when asked what his teammates said to him after the game. "It sucks it (the game) had to go down that way."

It was painful to watch.

In the first overtime, safety Bacarri Rambo appeared to give Georgia the break it needed to win when he picked off Kirk Cousins to give the Bulldogs back the ball.

Walsh was about to get his chance.

Following a 2-yard run by Carlton Thomas, quarterback Aaron Murray slid to center the ball in the middle of the field for Walsh, who was sent out to try and kick the game winner on third down from 42 yards out.

The kick went wide right.

"It went a little to the right," Walsh said. "I don't know what pulled it that way, but I didn't put it in the right direction."

Although the wind at Raymond James Stadium was swirling at times, Walsh didn't use it as an excuse.

"It was a tricky day, but that's all on me. If I miss a kick, it's my fault," Walsh said. "It doesn't matter if the wind is blowing 25 mph or zero. If the ball hits my foot, I'm supposed to make the kick."

As for the decision to kick on third down instead of trying to run another play, neither Walsh nor Murray disagreed to go ahead and go for the win.

"No, that's what you want to do," Walsh said. "In case there's a bad snap, you fall on it, they expect you to make the field goal and it didn't happen."

Murray agreed.

"No question," Murray said. "We've got faith in Blair. You can always look back and wish you would have done this and wish you would have done that but at the time I think, coaches, players, we all had faith in Blair that he was going to make the kick."

In the second overtime, Walsh kicked a 47-yard field before MSU's Dan Conroy nailed a 35-yarder to send the game into the third overtime when Conroy kicked a 28-yarder to put the Spartans up 33-30.

Three incompletions later by Murray and Walsh lined up for attempt No. 3.

His kick never had a chance, appearing to line off a MSU defender and fall to the turf, ending the game.

"It looked like it got blocked with the line collapsing a little bit, but it happened so fast you don't really know what goes on," said Walsh, who finishes his senior year just 21 of 35.

"I know it's a tough time right now, so I'll be praying for him," Conroy said. "That's a tough situation, but I know that he'll do great things in the NFL. He had a decent season this year, although not at his best liked he wanted it to be. But he'll be fine."

Ironically, on Georgia's second possession of the game, the Bulldogs drove to the MSU 5-yard line before head coach Mark Richt elected to go for it on fourth down, pulling Walsh off the field, who had originally come on to try a chip shot field goal.

The ensuing play lost a yard after Ken Malcome was knocked for a loss. A successful kick there and the game might never have gotten to overtime, but Walsh wasn't thinking about the lost opportunity after the game.

Neither did he ask for pity when it was suggested by a reporter he's had an unlucky year.

"You can say not my year in a lot of respects and that's OK," he said. "But the thing that's the most frustrating thing about it is my work ethic, my will to succeed doesn't really match the results I got this year but you know, I'll have a chance at the next level to prove that."

Ironically, Walsh's lone field goal in overtime allowed him to set a new Georgia and SEC record for points, giving him 412 for his career to surpass former Bulldog Billy Bennett.

"It's cool to set it," Walsh said. "Billy had the record and it's nice to go past it but I'd trade all the points I've scored to have won the game. I mean that."