The University of Georgia came up seconds short of finishing a historic touchdown drive, losing 32-28 to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship. The proceedings were anything but slow offensively after the first scoreless opening quarter ever recorded at the conference’s showcase game.
After booth review turned an interception into an incomplete pass, the Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray delivered strikes to Arthur Lynch and Tavarres King. Murray’s pass from the 8-yard line meant for the end zone went to Chris Conley.
The sophomore receiver failed to spike the ball, which ran out the clock.
Georgia’s head coach Mark Richt said Malcolm Mitchell was the intended receiver.
“If nothing else it could have been an incomplete pass and in that situation, you want a touchdown or incomplete pass. The ball got batted, and it ended up in our arms of the guy that was running the speedout,” Richt said. “Just a tough thing. You’d like a guy that has the presence of mind to bat the ball down, but I don’t know if there’s anybody in America that would have thought of that one.”
With 6:31 left in the third quarter, Georgia led the Crimson Tide 21-10 after a Cade Foster field goal attempt was blocked by Cornelius Washington. Alec Ogletree capped off the stellar defensive effort with a 55-yard touchdown return.
Alabama officially turned loose it’s running game with T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy. Four rushing plays later, the Tide scored, and Yeldon added the two-point conversion.
Lacy and Yeldon took advantage of their superior offensive line to help Alabama rush for 350 yards Saturday, which is an SEC Championship game record. Having two backs go over the century mark is a record as well.
“We kind of had that, I would not be denied attitude out there today. I’m not saying we played our best football game of the year in terms of execution, but the way we were able to run the ball, especially in the second half, was probably the difference in the game,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.
The fear of the run setup the night’s most dramatic play. Late in the final quarter Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron sent a 45-yard shock-wave touchdown pass to Amari Cooper that proved to be the winner.
Saban did knock his team for losing focus after a perceived winning interception by Dee Milliner on Georgia’s final drive was overturned. Alabama’s defense didn’t sink right back into their trademark process.
“When we went back out there and played defense, it was a completely different mindset than we had in terms of what we had prior to that happening. Everybody thought we won the game, and everybody is sort of celebrating on the sidelines,” Saban said. “Now you have to go back and really make some critical plays and critical stops. It takes a tremendous amount of maturity to re-center yourself and put yourself in the right psychological disposition to compete.”
Georgia surprised most Saturday by not completely rolling over against a top-ranked opponent, which has become the all too familiar norm for Dawg fans. The Bulldogs showed a national audience what they can do against one of the most well coached teams in FBS.
Losing by four to what could most likely be a back-to-back BCS National Champion, looks like the haymaker to any big bowl hopes. Saban made a great case for Georgia in his press comments.
Think the computers were listening?
“I’m going to tell you, that I think it’s a crying shame if Georgia doesn’t get to go to a BCS Bowl game. They played a tremendous game out there today. That was a great football game by both teams, and they could have won at the end just as soon as us, and it came right down to the last play. So I mean, I think it’s ridiculous,” Saban said.
Predictions place Georgia in a Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl against the Clemson Tigers.
Richt said the Dawgs are worthy of a BCS game. Overall, the Georgia Coach said his team just needed a slower clock.
“The boys gave a great effort, and I’m really proud of them, coaches, very proud of them as well,” Richt said post-game. “Somebody just asked me a second ago what I thought the difference was, and the only thing I can think of is we just ran out of time.”
The Crimson Tide’s Lacey was the Championship MVP rushing for 181 yards on 20 attempts for two touchdowns.
“Eddie did as fine a job as anybody has ever done for us in terms of the way he played today,” Saban said.
The freshman Yeldon wasn’t far back with 153 yards on 25 rushes for one score.
Georgia’s Todd Gurley scored two touchdowns running for 122 yards Saturday tying Hershel Walker’s 15-touchdown true freshman season. King led all receivers with 142 yards on just five catches.
Murray moved past Peyton Manning for second place on the SEC’s career touchdown passes lists with his 90th to Jay Rome in the second quarter. Georgia’s Jarvis Jones sack of McCarron early in the first quarter gave the linebacker his seventh forced fumble and team-leading 11.5 sack of the season.
Ogletree led the defense with 11 total tackles against Alabama. He has a team-high 98 tackles this fall.