Second-year quarterback Bryce Young threw three touchdown passes and rushed for another Saturday night to lead Alabama to a 41-24 loss to No.1 Georgia in the SEC Championship game at the stadium Mercedes-Benz.
Alabama (12-1) won for the seventh consecutive time against Georgia, with four of those wins here in Atlanta, either in the SEC Championship game or in the National Championship game. Nick Saban went 4-0 against his former assistant, Kirby Smart, whose Bulldogs never had an answer for Young and an Alabama offense that totaled 536 total yards.
Saban said being seen as an underdog in Saturday’s game was added motivation for Tide.
“I think what these guys really wanted to gain was more respect,” Saban said. “Not just the fact that they were underdogs, because I think we had immense respect for Georgia, their team and what they accomplished. But you’ve given us a lot of really positive rat poison. The rat poison you used to give us is usually fatal, but the rat poison you put there this week was delicious. “
Georgia’s defense, filled with future NFL first-round draft picks and considered by many to be one of the best in college football in recent years, had allowed a total of seven touchdowns in 44 quarterbacks heading into the game. But Alabama scored three touchdowns in the first half, and what was a 24-17 halftime lead grew to 38-17 early in the fourth quarter when safety Jordan Battle resumed an interception from Stetson Bennett 42 yards for a touchdown.
The SEC title was Alabama’s sixth in the past eight years, and the Crimson Tide will return to the college football playoffs for the seventh time in eight years, potentially as a No.1 seed.
It was the first time that Alabama had been an underdog in 92 straight games, dating back to a 38-10 victory over Georgia in 2015.
It was Nick Saban’s eighth victory against a No.1-ranked team, the most of any coach in the era of the AP polls, which dates back to 1936.
Young, who set an SEC championship game record with 461 total attacking yards, had 286 of his 421 yards in the first half. Georgia (12-1) took a 10-0 lead early, but Alabama scored 24 points in the second quarter – the most runs scored in any quarter of a league game. SEC – and took a 24-17 lead in the half.
As Young played, his offensive line was just as good. Alabama struggled to protect Young a week ago in a 24-22 four-overtime victory over Auburn, and he was sacked seven times. But against a Georgian defense that had stifled all season, Young repeatedly had his pockets clean to throw the soccer ball.
And when he didn’t have a clean pocket, he rushed over and played.
“It always comes down to the offensive line which did a very, very good job allowing us to pass the ball onto the field and our receivers to be able to work in the passing game which we knew was something that was going to be okay. happening be really important in this game, ”said Saban. “So it really started upstream. “
Alabama played the second half without one of their best receivers, John Metchie III, who suffered what Tide officials believe was an ACL tear in his left knee in the first half and is expected to miss the college football qualifiers, sources told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. . But Jameson Williams shredded the Georgia high school with seven catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
Bennett finished with 340 passing yards and three touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. Any chance the Dawgs had of a comeback was dashed in the third quarter when they made two trips to the red zone and came away scoreless.
Georgia hadn’t been in a close game all season, and it showed once the Dawgs fell behind on Saturday. They were unable to find saves on defense, failed to complete the keys on offense, and never found a way to slow Young, who convincingly claimed his claim for the Heisman Trophy.
As disappointing as Georgia’s loss is, the Dawgs will always be in the college football playoffs. The official announcement will come from the selection committee on Sunday evening.