The sophomore cornerback says that Georgia’s heartbreaking loss to Alabama still haunts him.
“It really hurt me,” he admitted. “I’ve been losing sleep over it.”
Prior to last month’s game in Atlanta, Damian Swann exploded on to the scene in 2012. He blended in with a Georgia secondary that was packed with seniors. Swann accounted for 53 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions this season. He played a pivotal role in Georgia’s wins over Florida and Ole Miss.
But last month at the Georgia Dome, Swann missed a few critical plays that cost the Bulldogs greatly. A pass interference call in the end zone in the first half put the Tide in prime position to score on the next play. Later in the fourth, Swann was covering Alabama receiver Amari Cooper when he notched the Crimson Tide’s game-winning touchdown. The play catapulted Alabama to its third National Championship Game in four years and sent Georgia to a non-BCS bowl.
The lesson from SEC Championship Game is one Swann said he learned from. It left a sour taste in his mouth – one that he knew could only be removed by a strong season’s end. The Capital One Bowl against No. 16 Nebraska in Orlando was a perfect platform to do so.
“I felt like I was due for a big game,” Swann said. “I felt like I had to have a big game to at least be somewhat satisfied with our season.”
And he did just that.
Swann finished the New Year’s Day win with six tackles and doubled his season interception total with two picks on Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez.
“He’s not really an accurate quarterback,” Swann said of the Cornhusker quarterback. “I knew with our [pass] rush, he was going to throw some balls up. I was just there to make the play.”
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said that Georgia’s game plan from the beginning was to “force Martinez to play quarterback,” which he said was well suited for Swann.
“Once they got to a certain point, I felt like we really needed to come after [Martinez],” Grantham said. “I thought we knocked him around pretty good and found a way to win the game and go out on a positive note.”
That’s exactly Swann was hoping for. Heading in to spring practice in March, the Atlanta native will become Georgia’s No. 1 cornerback and a proverbial leader of the secondary.
“Damian made great strides he’s made this year - I’m really proud of him,” Grantham said. “He’s a really good playmaker. Obviously he’s going to be a leader for us as we move forward. You’ll continue to see him progress and make those kinds of plays and be one of our team guys moving forward.”