Kevin C. Cox
It's hard to describe the game that Georgia and Alabama played in Atlanta on Saturday. But it was worthy game of the conference, and it gives the Tide a chance to defend their 2011 national title
There are few ways to capture the excitement and entertainment value of the game that Alabama and Georgia played on Saturday. It was a back-and-forth contest with a half-dozen lead changes. In a league not normally known for gaudy stats and high scores, there were 906 yards of total offense and each team scored at least 28 points. And the game ended with the losing team driving down to the opponent's 5-yard line before time expired.
In between, there were fake punts, a blocked field goal, a missed field goal, a two-point conversion and critical turnovers. There were, in short, plenty of moments. And one of the most important facets of this game is that Georgia needed one more.
Of course, Nick Saban and Alabama had as much to do with Georgia needing that moment as anything the Dawgs did themselves. A two-point conversion on a touchdown in the third quarter ensured that the last drive would have to produce seven points for Georgia -- not three. And when seemingly everyone was calling for Alabama to just hammer the ball in for a go-ahead touchdown in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, it was the Alabama coaching staff who put the ball in AJ McCarron's hands one more time -- and watched him launch a beautiful 45-yard pass to Amari Cooper.
All of that led to a last-gasp drive by Georgia that ended up with the ball on the Alabama 8 and the seconds furiously ticking away. In a decision that will likely be debated for months if not years by Georgia fans, Mark Richt and his coaching staff decided they had the Tide on the run and would press their advantage. Without clocking the ball -- Georgia was out of timeouts -- they called a pass play. The ball was batted at the line and ended up going to Chris Conley, where it was not supposed to go. Conley caught it and went down at the five; time ran out before Georgia could get off another play.
Two schools of thought on that final play are already developing. One says that Richt should have have spiked the ball and allowed his team to regroup before going for the winning touchdown. The other says that Richt made the right decision by keeping Alabama on the ropes and it was bad luck that the ball was batted and Conley didn't think to knock it down rather than catch it. Personally, I think the break would have benefited Alabama more than Georgia.
There were also a few more moments that will likely stick out in Georgia fans' minds, some -- shall we say -- questionable calls that went Alabama's way. There were a couple in both directions in this game, but it would be hard to argue that the officiating didn't affect Georgia more than Alabama. Whether it was enough to swing the game might decide on which team you favor and how the game went.
But on the field, the game belonged to the Tide's offensive stars. Cooper had eight catches for 128 yards and the winning touchdown. Eddie Lacy had 181 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. T.J. Yeldon added 153 yards and a score of his own on 25 rushes. McCarron was far from flawless, but he made the play he had to in the fourth quarter to lock down the win.
In the end, Alabama simply had one more moment than Georgia did. And the Tide will hope for another one, on a January night in Miami, when they clinch back-to-back consensus national titles for the first time since Nebraska did it 17 years ago. That would a moment not just for this team, but for the history books.