The SEC held it’s annual Championship game this afternoon in Atlanta and a PAC 12 game broke out. Well, not exactly. While the offenses moved the ball freely in the second half there was still plenty of old school smash-mouth football in the Georgia Dome. Alabama, throttled in the first half with their passing game, came out running in the second half behind Eddie Lacy and freshman T.J. Yeldon and then held on to outlast Georgia 32-28.
The first half was mostly dominated by Georgia as Alabama came out content to try to move the ball with the arm of quarterback A.J. McCarron and the Georgia pass rush pretty well stayed in his face preventing that from happening. In an unusual move for a primarily running team, Alabama went to their passing game on the first five drives of the game but was largely held in check with big sacks, a McCarron fumble, and a goal line interception by Bulldog cornerback Sanders Commings. In spite of Georgia’s defensive success they didn’t capitalize and trailed at the half 10-7 on the strength of two quick Alabama drives late in the first half.
The halftime speech from Saban must have been ‘Lacy, Yeldon run the damn ball”. They came out of the locker room and promptly ran the ball down the throat of the Georgia defense which had little answers for the Bama rushing game all night. The Crimson Tide finished the game with 347 yards rushing behind Lacy’s 185 yards and two touchdowns and Yeldon’s 152 yards and one touchdown.
In spite of Alabama’s dominating rushing effort they never were able to completely put Georgia away. The teams pretty much exchanged scores throughout the second half and it was quite obvious the last team to score would win this one. It looked like Georgia might run away with the game when they took the opening kick of the second half and drove the ball down for a score on a Todd Gurley 3 yard rush to take the lead back at 14-10. Alabama drove the ball for a 49 yard field goal attempt which was blocked and returned 55 yards by Alec Ogletree for a Georgia touchdown and a quick 21-10 lead.
That’s when Bama’s running game took hold. Bama went Yeldon left and Yeldon right to drive 62 yards for a score and a huge momentum shift leaving the Tide down only 21-17. Yeldon had a huge 31 yard run on the play where he ran over or through seemingly every Georgia defender. After a quick Bulldog 3 and out it was Lacy who came on to lead a Crimson Tide drive 73 yards for another touchdown and a 25-21 Alabama lead. This drive was jump-started on the first play when Eddie Lacy took it up the heart of the Georgia defense for 32 yards.
Just when it looked as if Georgia was dead and Bama might run away, the Bulldogs answered with a 5 play 75 yard drive which resulted in a 10 yard touchdown run by Todd Gurley. The key play on the drive was a 45 yard pass and catch from Aaron Murray, who finished with 267 yards passing, to Tavares King. At that point Georgia led 28-25.
After Georgia held Alabama to a punt on their next series, Georgia simply needed to make some first downs and run down some clock but came up short on a 3rd and 1 carry by Gurley and Bama held forcing the Bulldogs to punt. On the ensuing Bama posssession, Yeldon took a 3rd and 5 carry and muscled his way to a first down to keep Bama’s hopes alive. On first down, the Bama focus on the running game paid off big time as McCarron executed a perfect play-action fake to hit Amari Cooper on a 45 yard touchdown to retake the lead for the Tide at 32-28 with 3:51 seconds to play.
A game that looked like it might be a typical SEC defensive struggle in the first half had turned into a pinball game with both teams trading scores and headed for a frantic finish. After both teams traded punts, Georgia took over on their own 15 yard line with 1:08 left to play. On the series, Murray threw what was initially ruled a game-ending interception but was overturned upon replay review, setting up the wildest of finishes. Murray quickly moved the Dogs down to the Bama 8 yard line where Murray passed to Chris Conley who was tackled at the four as time ran out. Inexplicably, Murray failed to spike the ball on first down with 8 seconds remaining which might have given them two shots at the end zone. Instead, the SEC title and their shot at playing for their first national title since 1980 was left laying on the Georgia Dome field. Four yards short.
Game over and once again Bama is the SEC champion and now they have the opportunity to become the first ever team to win consecutive BCS championships.