Alabama, Georgia make for the greatest SEC Championship game ever

By Zac Al-Khateeb

The Crimson White, U. Alabama via UWIRE

Five yards.

That was the difference between Alabama going to its third national title in four years, and Georgia usurping the Crimson Tide as the No. 2 team in the nation.

Of course, Alabama came away with the 32-28 victory over Georgia, but the fact the Bulldogs were five yards (or one more play) away from a possible victory is very telling of the type of game the Southeastern Conference Championship was.

This game was the equivalent of what Alabama head coach Nick Saban likes to call a 15-round heavyweight boxing match – and Alabama barely survived to the final bell.

Alabama found itself challenged, and sometimes bullied, in every facet of the game. The Georgia defense, led by a stellar performance by Jarvis Jones, accumulated three sacks, two turnovers, and forced the Tide offense to work for every yard.

The Georgia offense was led by a valiant effort by quarterback Aaron Murray, who went 18-for-33, 265 yards and a touchdown. Talented freshman running back Todd Gurley also ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns, making him only the second running back all season to
eclipse the century mark on the ground against Alabama.

On special teams, Georgia was downright dominant. The Bulldogs converted a fake punt, which led to its first touchdown of the game, and blocked a field goal, recovering it and returning it for a touchdown.

The Tide certainly didn’t help itself at times either. After entering the second half with a 10-7 lead, Alabama allowed two scores by Georgia, one off an easy offensive drive by the Bulldogs, and one off the blocked field goal, giving them the 21-10 lead.

Quarterback AJ McCarron seemed tentative, holding the ball for too long, resulting in him being sacked three times and throwing an uncharacteristic interception in the end zone. The defense had trouble slowing the Georgia offense, and the special teams performed miserably at times.

But, in typical Alabama fashion, the Tide managed to find a way to fight back. And Alabama had a perfect counter to the Georgia onslaught: the one-two combination of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

Yeldon put Alabama back in the game, scoring a crucial 10-yard rushing touchdown and converting the two-point conversion as well, to put Alabama within three, at 21-18. If Yeldon put Alabama back into the game with his score, however, Lacy gave Alabama control of the game.

He had four rushes of at least 14 yards in the third quarter, setting up the go-ahead touchdown in the first play of the fourth quarter. Overall, Lacy and Yeldon finished with 187 and 154 yards, respectively, with three combined touchdowns.

“They definitely had success running the ball,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “They had two drives, they might have thrown it once. That was impressive.”

The fourth quarter, however, is where Alabama won the game. After earning a late go-ahead touchdown, the Alabama defense had to take the field one last time to win.

Georgia had just over a minute left and 85 yards between it and the win. It was anyone’s game. The Bulldogs drove all the way down to the Alabama 8, and with 15 seconds left, elected to go for it all in lieu of spiking the ball. On the final play, wide receiver Chris Conley caught a
tipped pass, and was tackled in bounds, five yards short of the end zone and a Georgia victory.

Despite the loss, Richt said his team played incredibly, and lauded his team for its effort. “If anybody thinks we didn’t play our tails off, if Aaron Murray didn’t play his tail off,” Richt said, “they’re crazy.”

Saban surely wasn’t in disagreement with Richt. Saban said Georgia’s performance earned them the right to play in a BCS bowl game at season’s end.

“I’m going to tell you that it’s a crying shame if Georgia doesn’t get to go to a BCS bowl game,” Saban said. “… They played a tremendous game out there today, and that was a great football game. By both teams.”

Indeed, this game was the epitome of what an SEC game should be: tough, physical, and hard-fought, all the way to the end. Neither team played perfectly, but both teams certainly played well enough to earn the win.

Alabama was just five yards better.

Read more here: http://cw.ua.edu/2012/12/01/alabama-georgia-make-for-the-greatest-sec-championship-game-ever/
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