Published — Monday 3 December 2012
Last update 3 December 2012 6:59 am
ATLANTA: Alabama is heading back to college football’s championship game after a thrilling 32-28 win over Georgia in the Southeast Conference championship game on Saturday.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper with 3:15 remaining to put Alabama ahead, and the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide just held on.
After an apparent game-clinching interception by Alabama was overturned on a video review, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray completed a 15-yard pass to Arthur Lynch, a 23-yarder to Tavarres King and a 26-yarder to Lynch, who was hauled down at the Alabama 8-yard line as the clock continued to run.
The Bulldogs were out of timeouts. Instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock and gathering themselves, the Bulldog snapped the ball with 9 seconds to go.
Murray’s attempted pass into the corner of the endzone was deflected at the line but wound up in the arms of Chris Conley. Surprised to get the ball, he slipped down at the 5-yard line and the No.3-ranked Bulldogs did not have time to get off another play.
Alabama celebrated as confetti fell from the Georgia Dome roof. The Bulldogs collapsed on the field, stunned they had come so close to knocking off the team that has won two of the past three national titles.
The Tide will get a chance to make it three out of four when they face top-ranked Notre Dame for the BCS crown on Jan. 7 in Miami.
“I’m ready to have heart attack here,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They played a tremendous game out there. That was a great football game, by both teams. It came right down to the last play.” For the Bulldogs (11-2), the consolation prize will likely be a spot in the Capital One Bowl, though they certainly looked like a team fully deserving of a BCS bid. Georgia coach Mark Richt said his team had the play it wanted at the end, but Alabama ruined it by getting a hand on the ball.
“I told the guys I was disappointed, but I’m not disappointed in them,” Richt said. “They’re warriors. We had a chance at the end. We just didn’t get it done.” In a back-and-forth second half that looked nothing like a game in the defensive-minded SEC, Georgia looked like winners when they went up 21-10 as Alec Ogletree returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Alabama rallied behind a punishing running game, finishing with 350 yards on the ground, an SEC championship game record. Eddie Lacy rumbled for 181 yards on 20 carries, including two TDs. Freshman T.J. Yeldon added 153 yards on 25 carries, also scoring a TD.
But the Tide won it through the air. With Georgia stacking the line, McCarron fooled the Bulldogs with play action and delivered a perfectly thrown pass to Cooper, who beat Damian Swann in single coverage down the left side.
The Bulldogs punted the ball back to Alabama with 2:25 left, relying on their defense to finally stop the Tide. Georgia used up its final two timeouts, forced a punt and got the ball back at its 15 with 1:16 remaining.
Alabama broke into a celebration when a pass down the middle for Conley was deflected and Dee Milliner appeared to make a diving interception.
But the replay showed the ball hit the ground, so Murray and the Georgia offense trotted back on the field for their last drive, which fell agonizingly short.
Todd Gurley led Georgia with 122 yards rushing, including a couple of TDs. Murray was 18 of 33 for 265 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
McCarron was 12 of 21 for 162 yards with an interception, just his third of the season.