Crimson Tide wins SEC Championship, earns title game tripPublished 7:23pm Saturday, December 1, 2012
ATLANTA — Alabama is heading back to the national championship game — by a mere 5 yards.
AJ McCarron threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper with 3:15 remaining, and the No. 2 Crimson Tide barely held off No. 3 Georgia 32-28 in a Southeastern Conference title game for the ages Saturday.
After an apparent game-clinching interception by Alabama was overturned on a video review, Georgia’s 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 as the clock continued to run.
The Bulldogs were out of timeouts.
Instead of spiking the ball and gathering themselves, the Bulldog snapped the ball with 9 seconds to go. Murray attempted a pass into the corner but it was deflected at the line, winding up in the arms of Chris Conley out in the right flats.
Surprised to get the ball, he slipped down at the 5.
Georgia couldn’t 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 last 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.
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 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. And if it had fallen incomplete instead of going to Conley, who instinctively caught it, the Bulldogs could have tried another play.
“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.”
After the clock had finally run out on Georgia, Richt made one last pitch for a BCS bid.
“Do I think we’re worthy of a BCS bowl?” he said. “Yes I do.”
The Bulldogs even got props from Saban.
“It would be a crying shame if Georgia doesn’t get to go to a BCS bowl game,” the Alabama coach 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.”
Alabama has a chance for the double championship it was denied a year ago. The 2011 version of the Tide didn’t even win the SEC West after losing to LSU in Tuscaloosa, but got a rematch with the SEC champion Tigers in the BCS title game.
In the do-over, Alabama romped to a 21-0 win — clearly the nation’s best team, but still hearing complaints it didn’t deserve a second chance.
Now, the Tide heads to Miami with a title already in hand.
Georgia, looking to make up for a 42-10 loss to LSU in last year’s SEC title game, struck first after Richt gambled on a fake punt from the Alabama 36. Lynch, the up back, took a direct snap and lofted a wobbly but accurate pass over the middle to cornerback Sanders Commings for a 16-yard completion. Two plays later, Murray went to Jay Rome for a 19-yard touchdown pass.
But, mirroring last year’s SEC title game, Georgia failed to take advantage of some chances to put more points on the board.
The BCS National Championship game will be played in Miami on Monday, Jan. 7.