Alabama runs all over Georgia but survives in the closing seconds to win
Alabama trailed by as many as 11 points in the third quarter, but quickly erased that deficit with their ground and pound attack. The Tide ran for 198 yards in the second half and 350 for the game, breaking their own SEC Championship game record set in 1999. The combination of Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon, along with dominating blocking from arguably the best offensive line in college football, just manhandled the Bulldogs front 7. Lacy and Yeldon were in the secondary on almost every carry in the 3rd quarter, and even carried defenders for extra yards.
Nick Saban didn’t have his best game as a head coach. In fact, if Alabama had lost it would’ve been easy to point the finger in his direction. Early in the game, Alabama successfully faked a punt but due to a delay of game the play was nullified. Once the play clock gets to a certain number the head coach has to recognize the ball may not be snapped in time and should use a timeout, especially during a trick play.
Georgia returned the favor and faked their own punt, which resulted in a first down. Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart did a bad job of not recognizing who was eligible to catch the fake punt and who wasn’t. They failed to cover the player who was and the defense reacted late.
The most mind blowing of all was the end of the first half following the interception that set Bama up in Bulldogs territory. By the way, the officials missing the blatant helmet-to-helmet hit on Murray during the interception return--was just brutal. It was good to see Murray not miss any time in the game and appeared to be lucky not to suffer a concussion.
So Bama gets the ball and starts moving down the field. Tick tick tick tick……still no timeout. And Bama had 3 timeouts left. Clock now under 30 seconds and Saban still didn’t use one. McCarron scrambled to the 5 yard line for a first down and finally with 5 seconds left—Saban used his first timeout of the half. Just awful clock management. To go into the half with two timeouts in your pocket is just mindless. Bama kicked an easy field goal and went up 10-7 at the half, instead of potentially 14-7. No guarantee of a TD, but it seemed they had figured out Georgia’s defense on their last two drives.
When Alabama scored to make it 21-16, I almost lost my mind when Saban decided to go for 2. Now conventional thinking is you go for 2 to cut it to 21-18 to be within a field goal. However, others will say you don’t want to chase points too early. If you don’t convert the 2 point conversion one time, then you essentially force yourself to go for it on any subsequent score.
Thankfully, Yeldon went basically untouched into the endzone for the 2 point conversion. This decision by Saban changed how the end of the game was played. If Bama doesn’t convert the 2 point conversion, they trail 21-16, which means the next touchdown makes the score 22-21. And as I said they would be chasing points, so they would be forced to go for 2 again. Even if they were to convert a 2 point conversion on either of the last two touchdowns they scored, Georgia would’ve either trailed by 2 or 3, needing only a field goal to tie or win in the closing seconds. So Saban’s decision atoned for his disastrous first half.
Alabama’s offensive line and running game really took AJ McCarron off the hook. While Saban had issues coaching, McCarron really had a bad game until the 45-yard game-winning TD pass. McCarron missed throws all over the field and the interception on the goal line was reminiscent of the Texas A&M disaster to end that game. And let’s be honest, any college quarterback should be able to make the throw he made to an open Amari Cooper. Cooper, by the way, may be as good a receiver as there is in college football.
And while the defense looked mediocre at times; Georgia’s line pushed them around and freshman running back Todd Gurley had an impressive game; when it mattered most, linebacker CJ Mosely tipped the pass that ended the game. It appeared Murray was trying to make a back shoulder throw to his receiver in the endzone. Hard to blame the kid who caught the ball as time expired.
And everyone is screaming about spiking the ball to stop the clock. As logical as it sounds to do so, Alabama’s defense isn’t as good when they don’t get the proper personnel on the field in certain situations. While not spiking the ball likely cost Georgia another play, you can argue that one play against their defense without proper substitutions, may have given them a better chance to put the ball in the endzone versus 2 plays against a set defense.
This was the best SEC Championship game I've seen since the inaugural game in 1992 when Alabama beat Florida. Now ESPN is thrilled to get the National Championship game it hoped for going into the day. The ratings for Alabama/Notre Dame may break records. Notre Dame is actually 5-1 all-time vs the Tide. Alabama opens as a 10 1/2 point favorite. It's a shame we have to wait 5 weeks to see it.