For the second straight season, Georgia returns to Mercedes Benz Stadium to
play in the SEC Championship Game. Last year, they got a measure of revenge
by beating Auburn who had beaten them a few weeks earlier for their only
regular season loss.
This time, its a similar scenario. It's Alabama as the SEC West Division
Champion and Georgia again representing the East. And, again, there is a bit
of payback involved. In 2017, UGA went on from the Championship Game to beat
Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. Bama beat Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. And, in the
National Championship Game played in this same Mercedes Benz Stadium, the
Crimson Tide and Georgia went into overtime with Alabama coming out on top.
So, just like with Auburn last year, the Dawgs will be looking to avenge an
earlier loss to Alabama. And, if you want to take the revenge thing a step
further, the two teams have only met in the SEC Championship Game once
before. In 2012, I saw in the end zone of the Georgia Dome and watched the
then #2 Crimson Tide get a lead and barely hold on as Aaron Murray
drove his team to the five yard line before running out of time in a 32-28
loss. Completely different players and coaching staff. But, the fans
But, according to virtually all of the experts, UGA doesn't stand a
chance. Oddsmakers have them as an early thirteen point underdog. That
is mostly showing respect for a Tide team that has been clearly head and
shoulders above the rest of the field all season. Anyone facing them would
be an underdog. In fact, to be honest, if I were forced to place a bet on
the game, I would probably put the money on Alabama as well. But, I've
watched every snap of the Bulldogs this season. And, except for the one
stumble at LSU, they have completely dominated every opponent, especially in
the five games since that loss.
After the game in Baton Rouge, Georgia beat the then #9 Gators 36-17.
They beat the then #9 ranked Wildcats 34-17. Both games away from Sanford
Stadium. They hosted Auburn and won 27-10, UMass and won 66-27 and destroyed
Georgia Tech 45-21, leading 38-7 at the half before putting it on cruse
That's a combined score of 208-92. And most of the opponent points were
against backups late in the games. So, they've gotten hot at the right time.
Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart was asked if, after last year's game,
that this matchup was inevitable.
"I don't know that it was inevitable," he said. "Certainly, both of
us had to win some football games to get to it. I think last year's game is
last year's game, and our kids are really focused on playing good football.
That's really all we've worried about for the last five to six weeks, since
the LSU loss, is moving forward and trying to grow as a team to get better,
and that's been our focal point. It really hasn't been all that much about
"I think both teams are good football teams," he said. "That's why
they're representing their divisions in the conference championship, and
both teams continue to get better. Great quarterback play and third down
conversions and protecting the ball and not turning the ball over a lot.
Those are similarities. Both got good set of backs, good set of receivers.
Both teams are scoring points. Biggest difference is they play better
Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban on UGA. "Well, I can speak to
Georgia, just kind of watching them through the year. They have a lot of
really good players, very talented guys that are very well coached. They
play hard. They're very disciplined. They've got great balance on offense.
They can run the ball. They can make explosive plays. The quarterback is
very efficient in the passing game.
"Defensively, they're ranked very highly in all categories in terms of
stopping the run, pass defense. They've got some very explosive guys on
special teams. They're one of the best punt return units. They've got a
great kicker. They've got good specialists. So this all around is just a
really, really good team. We didn't play everybody in their division, and I
don't know those teams as well as maybe sometimes when you're playing
somebody, but they have been a pretty dominant team all season long.
Since Kirby Smart took over, the Bulldogs have beaten top 10 ranked
opponents five times. Once in Athens, once in Jacksonville, once in the
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, once in Lexington and once in Pasadena.
Alabama won the toss and deferred to the second half. Georgia began their
first drive at their 25 and lost seven culminating with a Jake Fromm
11 yard sack. The 47 yard punt was taken by Jaylen Waddle who
returned it 36 yards to the UGA29.
Tua Tagovailoa tossed a right flat pass complete to DeVonta
Smith for 9 yards to the UGA20. Damien Harris rushed up the
middle for 14 yards to the UGA6. Then the tide turned as Tagovailoa was also
sacked for a loss of 11 yards to the UGA17 by D'Andre Walker. That
was followed by an interception at the goal line by Richard LeCounte
who returned it 45 yards to the UGA45. A 10 yard block in the back call
moved it back to the 19. Only his third pick all season.
The opening drives looked like an early hole for the Dawgs but everything
reset with the turnover. Things began in fives. five up with an Elijah
Holyfield run. Five back on an off sides call, then five more by
Holyfield. Nick Saban took his first time out on a third and five at
the 24. Bama jumped off side but UGA didn't need it with Jeremiah
Holloman catching it at the 43. Riley Ridley got another first
with a catch at the Alabama 45. Their first time in opposing territory. A
third and nine came up empty forcing a punt.
Crimson Tide ball at their 20. Two plays got nothing making it third and
10. Irv Smith, Jr. was wide open up the middle for what would have
been a huge 40 yard play but dropped it. The end result was Georgia getting
the ball at that same spot at their 40 after a 40 yard punt.
Holloman started with an 18 yard catch to the Bama42. Terry Godwin
caught one coming across the middle to the 33. D'Andre Swift got the
first down running out of bounds at the 31. Godwin dropped what would have
been a touchdown pass in the end zone. A completion to Ridley at the 20 gave
them a new set of downs. Isaac Nauta caught one up the middle for a
20 yard TD and the first points of the game 7-0.
Alabama began their drive at their 25. A completion to Henry Ruggs III
got 24 yards to the 49. Deandre Baker was hurt on the play.
Najee Harris ran for a big 17 yard gain to the 29. A hands to the
face penalty pushed the ball all the way to the 14. Another dropped pass,
this one by Jerry Jeudy might have been a score. Josh Jacobs
had a tough 13 yard run to the one as the first quarter came to an end. The
first time the Crimson Tide had trailed after one quarter all season. Harris
finished the job diving across to tie it at 7.
Mecole Hardeman took the punt out 23 yards to the 26. James Cook
got his first tough with a 7 yard catch at the 33. Swift converted with a 7
yard carry to the 42. Justin Fields came in at QB for a short run. Fromm
back in with a quick completion to Charlie Woerner to midfield.
Woerner got 7 more to the Bama43. Swift got four to the 39. A third and
seven had Godwin pull one down for 11 to the 29. Tyler Simmons took a hard
hit after gaining 8 to the 21. Holyfield was back in with a first down carry
to the 16. A tough run by Holyfield got seven more to the nine. Swift
refused to go down until he was across the goal line for a 14-7 lead.
The Tide went three and out with UGA getting the ball back in great field
position after Hardeman got it out 16 yards to their 49.
Fields back in at QB for a no gain play. Fromm back in with a handoff to
Swift who sprinted 20 yards to the 31 putting the back over a thousand yards
on the season. On the next play the pile carried Swift 13 yards to the 18.
Holyfield bulled his way for six for a third and three at the 11. An open
Swift caught one this time and scampered into the end zone for an amazing
Alabama got a huge run by Jacobs who took it 59 yards to the 16. The
longest play of the game so far. Harris barreled his way for a first and
goal at the one. Then, the Crimson Tide uncharacteristically fumbled the
ball by Jacobs across the goal line for a touchback. On review, it was
actually ruled a touchdown making it a 21-14 game.
UA got a break on the punt as Hardeman scooped it up at the one and was
brought down at the six. A pair of Swift carries got nothing for a big third
and nine at the 7. But on the punt, Bama was flagged for running into the
kicker letting the Dawgs keep the ball with a new set of downs at the 19.
They couldn't move it and had to punt with 8 seconds left. The clock ran out
with Georgia leading 21-4 at the half. Some may remember that, in last
year's National Championship Game, the Bulldogs lead 13-0 at the half. This
time, the lead was seven. But a few interesting stats. Teams leading at the
half of the championship game are 22-4 and have won six straight. UGA is 3-1
when leading at the half, Alabama is 0-4. In the first half, Georgia lead in
total offense 227-146 and in time of possession 20:52 to 9:08.
Momentum seemed to be shifting to the Tide at the end of the first half
as they got the ball to start the second half with a chance to tie it. They
began at their 25. But they couldn't take advantage as Channing Tindall
got a 10 yard sack with an intentional grounding call tacked on After
the 36 yard kick, UGA had great field position at midfield.
Holyfield got the carry for 7 to the 44. The champ's son got 3 with a run
to the UGA sideline. First down at the 23. On the next play, Ridley pulled
one down in the far corner of the end zone renewing the lead to 14 points,
Alabama began at their 25 and had a third three and out.
Georgia ball at their 25 with a chance to get their biggest lead of the
game. Swift moved it out five. A false start moved it back. Then, UGA's
longest play as Nauta took a pass and ran 55 yards to the 20. Swift caught
one and made it 7 yards for a third and three at the 13. An incomplete pass
brought in Rodrigo Blankenship for their first field goal, with it
sailing left from 30 yards. The score remained 28-14. Under 40 yards, he was
35 of 38 in his career.
UA took over at their 20 and finally began to move it with Waddle
catching one for 23 to the 45. A deep pass attempt drew a pass interference
call on Eric Stokes giving the Crimson Tide the ball at the 28. And,
again the defense rose up with JR Reed picking the pass off at the
Georgia had to be careful of a turnover themselves in the shadow of their
own goal line. They went three and out with a booming Jake Camarda
punt flipping the field fair caught 60 yards later at the 28.
Completions to Ruggs, Harris and Smith set up a 51 yard touchdown pass to
Waddle making it a one score game again, 28-21.
The Tide showed how quick they could strike with the scoring drive going
just 4 Plays, 72 yards and 1:29 used.
Georgia needed to get the lead back to two scores to avoid a last second
play like last season.
Their drive began at their 25. Fromm kept it for a gain of three. Ridley
got the first down with a 12 yard catch at the 39. Fromm didn't see any
openings and took off for seven and a third and two at the 47. But, the
drive ended there giving Alabama the ball back and a chance again to tie the
They took over at their 20. A pass to Ruggs got 17 to the 37 as the game
moved into the final quarter.
At this point in their last meeting, Georgia was ahead 20-10 before Bama
outscored them 10-0 in the fourth quarter to send it to overtime.
Two incomplete passes brought up a third and 10 Tagovailoa was hit just
as he released the ball forcing a fourth three and out. Georgia got the ball
back at their 27.
The defense had been doing their job. Time for the offense to get some
separation and get the momentum back. Nauta caught it for seven. Swift took
a handoff sprinting across the backfield for a first down 12 yard gain to
the 46. A nice catch by Ridley on the sidelines got it into Bama territory
at the 48. Not enough and the ball was kicked back to the Tide at their 20.
Again a chance to tie. Harris lost two. But they got what they needed
with a 13 yard pass to Smith at the 31. Tagovailoa, who had to leave the
game earlier to have his ankle taped fell to the ground holding it. Last
year's starter, Jalen Hurts, came in to take over. A handoff to
Harris was stuffed for a third and 12. Hurts converted with a completion to
Irv Smith up the middle for 13. A big third and five at the 47 Scrambling to
his right, Hurts found an open receiver 23 yards downfield at the 23. Hurts
broke free for another first down to the 18. Harris carried it for nine to
the nine. A direct snap to Jacobs got a first and goal at the 7. A false
start put it at the 10. Kirby Smart took his first time out at 5:36.
Scrambling to his right, Hurts bought time enough to find Jeudy for a tying
score 28-28. The first time since it was 7-7 in the first quarter. A 16 play
80 yard drive.
Was another overtime waiting. Georgia was still in the drivers' seat
having the ball with a chance to eat clock and put it away.
The punt was fumbled by Hardeman with Brian Herrien grabbing it at
the 24 yard line. Fields was back in for the third time. And like the other
two, it went nowhere leaving Fromm with a second and long. A pass to Swift
got the ball to midfield for a 26 yard pickup. A huge third and 11 with
still 3:17 left needing to keep possession. But an incomplete pass
Hurts stuck a knife in the hearts of Georgia fans by running it in for a
35-28 lead, the first time all game they had not trailed. The Bulldogs were
left with just 51 seconds and the ball at the 36. A pass to Swift got it to
the 44. A do or die fourth and two. Godwin converted to the 48. The clock
stopped at 23 seconds. A sack forced Smart to take his second time out at 18
seconds. An incomplete pass left 9 seconds. A short pass to Hardeman at the
39 left 3 seconds. Smart took his final time out. A Hail Mary fell
harmlessly in the end zone. Once again, Bama had pulled one out in the end.
Georgia had twice lead by 14 points only to have it slip away again in
the final minutes. Knowing that Oklahoma had already won its game, for
Georgia, all that was left was a probable New Year's Six trip to the Sugar