ATLANTA — As the ball dropped to the ground and out of freshman wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell's grasp in the first quarter of the SEC Championship Game, he put his hands on his hips, immediately aware of the ramifications of his gaffe.
"It was just a mistake that I made that just can't let happen in these types of games," Mitchell said of his wide-open drop.
Mitchell said that his teammates never lost their faith in his abilities, though.
"Everyone told me to keep my head up," he said. "They know the type of player I am, that I won't let it happen again, so they just told me to stay focused."
Leading the top-ranked LSU Tigers just 3-0 at the time of Mitchell's drop, kicker Blair Walsh compounded the problem by missing a 45-yard field goal on the next play.
But that 3-0 advantage could have been 7-0 if junior wide receiver Tavarres King would have been able to snag quarterback Aaron Murray's pass that was within his reach.
King said the miscue did not bring back any bad memories of his two wide-open drops against Boise State in Georgia's season opener, which coincidentally took place at the site of Saturday's game — the Georgia Dome.
"That didn't even enter my mind, matter of fact," he said. "I was just extremely glad we got some points out of that drive. It didn't affect me at all. I came back and made plays later in the game."
The Bulldogs did not make enough plays to separate themselves from the Tigers, though.
Coming out of the locker room with a 10-7 lead to begin the second half, things went downhill for Georgia from there, as the Tigers added 35 more points in the second stanza and held the Bulldogs scoreless en route to a 42-10 blowout victory.
The 42 unanswered points put on the board by the Tigers set a new record in the SEC Championship Game, and left the Bulldogs lamenting their failure to capitalize more in the first half.
"We had so much momentum in that first quarter," Aron White said. "Opening up the game by coming down, getting the field goal and striking first and turning around and then getting that onside kick, and then driving the ball down and dropping the touchdown, that hurt us. And the one on that first drive to 'TK' [Tavarres King] that probably should have been a touchdown. It's tough when you feel like you should have 14 points on somebody and you come out and you have three."
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was every bit as frustrated over his unit's lack of points, but felt they could have done more with their possessions in the second half.
"It's just one of those things," he said. "I'm sure all of those guys would like to have some of those opportunities back — I'd like to have some calls back — but you've just gotta keep playing. It's still 10-7 at half and we're winning."
It's not just the points left on the field that bothered the Bulldogs, though.
Fullback Bruce Figgins knew he made a mistake that contributed to the loss as well.
"Even when I dropped my pass I said, 'That was a first down,'" he said. "We were up 3-0 for a while, and I said that those [dropped passes] were going to come back to get us. When you're playing a championship team like this, the margin of error is so small."
Murray echoed Figgins' comments, as he lauded the Tigers for their dominant performance.
"When we watch the film we'll probably be kicking ourselves for the amount of plays we left out there," he said. "But you have to give credit to them. They played an awesome game. They made the plays. We've got to use this game to learn."
And that's exactly what King plans on doing.
"It's tough, but you learn from things like that," he said of his near-touchdown reception. "You learn to focus. Not focusing on the ball — even for a split second — and taking your eye off the ball, you learn from stuff like that."
King also admitted that this game will be one that he keeps in his thoughts for a long time to come.
"You're going to always look at this game and be like, 'Aw crap. We had so many opportuntities, so many. They were right there in that first half,'" he said. "Think about it. When you're down 24-0, 24-7, they've got to do some things different. They've got to change their whole system up, but they didn't have to when we had them at 10-7. They felt like they were still in it."
And as disappointed as Mitchell was over his drop, he knew that there was nothing he could do to alter what had already transpired.
"You have no choice but to let it go," he said. "The game's over now. There is nothing I can do about it but prepare for next [season] when a play like that comes."