Alabama holds off Georgia, advances to final vs. Notre Dame

Updated 03 December 2012
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Alabama holds off Georgia, advances to final vs. Notre Dame

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.


Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

Updated 52 min 45 sec ago
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Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

ST. PETERSBURG: Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup’s knockout stage.
Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty for a consolation goal on his return from injury but Egypt’s first World Cup in 28 years could be over in barely five days following a second straight loss.
Ahmed Fathi poked the ball into his own net — the fifth own-goal of the tournament — to put Russia ahead in the 47th minute. Then Denis Cheryshev and Artyom Dzyuba scored in quick succession to leave Russia on course for a victory that followed up a 5-0 opening-night win over Saudi Arabia.
It was Cheryshev’s third goal of the World Cup, putting him tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring chart.
Russia’s place in the round of 16 will be assured if Uruguay wins or draws against the Saudis on Wednesday. Those two scenarios would also eliminate Egypt, which started with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
The hopes of 100 million Egyptians were raised when Salah was selected in the starting lineup, the Liverpool forward making his comeback after 3 1/2 weeks out with damaged ligaments in his left shoulder after a tangle with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final.
Salah trotted out for his pre-match warmup to roars from Egypt fans, who at times appeared to outnumber their Russian counterparts. They shouted every time Salah’s face flashed up on the big screen and when his name was announced before kickoff.
Yet from the start, it was clear that Salah was staying out of anything too physical and there was no concerted effort from his Egypt teammates to pick him out each time. He didn’t touch the ball until the seventh minute.
He did win the penalty — confirmed by the video assistant referee after Salah was pulled down by Roman Zobnin. He converted it in the 73rd minute, but it wasn’t enough. Egypt is still without a victory in six World Cup matches.
Russia is nearly assured of advancing from the group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.
Cheryshev, who entered the World Cup as a fringe player, is proving lethal in front of goal, with his latest a side-footed effort from close range from Mario Fernandes’ cross in the 59th. Dzyuba’s goal was more direct, the striker chesting down a long ball from defender Ilya Kutepov, beating his marker and curling home a low finish.