By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
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ATLANTA - Amari Cooper's 45-yard touchdown reception with 3:15 remaining Saturday lifted No. 2 Alabama to its 23rd all-time Southeastern Conference Football Championship with a 32-28 victory against No. 3 Georgia at the Georgia Dome in a game that featured more than its fair share of twists and turns. The contest was played in front of 75,624 fans, the fifth-largest crowd in SEC Championship Game history.
It was a highly anticipated matchup that almost certainly decided which team would face top-ranked Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game. The final BCS Standings will be compiled Sunday, December 2. The BCS bowl pairings will be announced at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The Crimson Tide, whose berth in its second consecutive BCS Championship Game will be made official on Sunday, will give Alabama the opportunity to capture its third national title over the span of the past four years.
Alabama (12-1) trailed 28-25 with 12:54 remaining in the game following a 10-yard rushing touchdown by Georgia’s Todd Gurley. After several unsuccessful drives by both teams, the Crimson Tide received the ball back with 5:24 left.
That’s when Alabama developed a penchant for passing in a game that had been dominated by solid ground games from both teams. Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron found Cooper streaking down the left sideline for what would be the game-winning touchdown pass.
Cooper had seven catches for 127 yards in the game (18.1 avg).
McCarron finished the game 13-of-21 passing with one critical scoring strike. SEC Championship Game Most Valuable Player Eddie Lacy rushed 20 times for a game-high 181 yards with two touchdowns, while T.J. Yeldon had 25 attempts for 153 yards, marking the first time in SEC Championship Game history that two players on the same team rushed for better than 100 yards.
Georgia (11-2) marched down the field on its final drive of the game with one last opportunity to reclaim the advantage in a contest that featured six lead changes. With 15 seconds remaining and the Bulldogs on the Alabama eight-yard line, quarterback Aaron Murray tossed a pass that was tipped and fell on by Chris Conley at the five-yard line, but the clock expired to end the game.
Murray finished 18-of-33 from scrimmage for 265 yards passing with a touchdown. Gurley led Georgia’s ground game with 23 carries for 122 yards with a pair of scores.
After the first scoreless opening quarter in the history of the SEC Championship Game, the second 15 minutes featured its fair share of offensive excitement. Georgia got on the board first with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Jay Rome to give the Bulldogs the early 7-0 advantage. The Crimson Tide scored 10 points in a span of fewer than two minutes to close the first half after a 41-yard rushing touchdown by Lacy and a 22-yard field goal from Jeremy Shelley to lead the two teams into the locker room at intermission.
Just out of halftime, Georgia strung together a nine-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a three-yard Gurley rushing touchdown that put the Bulldogs back in front 14-10 at the 12:09 mark of the third quarter. Georgia then extended its lead to 21-0 following a 55-yard return by Alec Ogletree on a blocked field-goal attempt by Alabama. The Crimson Tide rounded out the third-quarter scoring with a 10-yard rush by Yeldon, who also ran in a two-point conversion to cut Alabama’s deficit to 24-18 heading into the final period of play.
Georgia opened the third quarter with a 10-yard rushing touchdown by Gurley that put the Bulldogs ahead 28-25 with 12:54 remaining in the game to set up the exciting finish.
The SEC expects to begin its quest for its seventh consecutive national title on January 7 at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
Alabama vs. Georgia
Dec. 1, 2012 | Georgia Dome | Atlanta, Ga.
FINAL: ALABAMA 32, GEORGIA 28
RB Eddie Lacy was named the Championship MVP. He joins LSU’s Justin Vincent in 2003 as the only running backs to be named MVP.
Alabama is 4-4 in SEC title games, having played Florida seven times. Head coach Nick Saban is 4-1 in SEC Championship games.
Georgia and head coach Mark Richt are 2-3 in SEC title games.
Tonight’s attendance of 75,624 is the third-highest in the 19 SEC Championship games at the Georgia Dome and only the fourth to top 75,000. Here are the games above 75,000 in the Dome: 75,892 in 2008 (Florida 31, Alabama 20), 75,802 in 2010 (Auburn 56, South Carolina 17), 75,624 in 2012, 75,514 in 2009 (Alabama 32, Florida 13).
This is only the fifth time in 21 Championship games that has been decided by seven points or less and just the second in the last 14 years. The last game decided by seven points or less was LSU’s 21-14 victory over Tennessee in 2007.
A Western Division team has won four straight SEC Championships to cut the Eastern Division’s lead to 11-10. It’s the longest streak by the West in the championship game.
Georgia recorded the game’s first score in the second quarter. The team that has scored first in the SEC Championship Game is now 11-10.
Alabama led 10-7 at the half. The winning team has led at halftime in 16 of the 21 previous games.
The game saw the first scoreless first quarter in SEC Championship game history. The previous low was in 2006 when Florida led Arkansas 3-0 after one stanza.
The 17 total first half points ties the 1998 and 2011 games for the second lowest first half point total in SEC Championship game history. The record is 13 in 2007 when Tennessee led LSU, 7-6.
Alabama set a Championship game record with 350 rushing yards, bettering the 300 it had against Florida in 1999. Its 51 rushes ranked second to the 53 it had against Florida in 2009. The three rushing TDs tied the championship game record held by six other teams.
Alabama’s Eddie Lacy rushed for 181 yards, the third-highest total in championship game history trailing only LSU’s Justin Vincent’s 201 in 2003 and Tennessee’s Gerald Riggs’ 182 in 2004. Lacy’s 9.1 yards per rush ranks third in championship game history.
Alabama became the first team in championship game history to have two backs rush for more than 100 yards as Eddie Lacy ran for 181 and TJ Yeldon tallied 153. Yeldon’s total ranked fifth behind Florida’s Earnest Graham’s 169 in 2000.
For only the second time in Championship game history, each team boasted at least one 100-yard rusher. Alabama’s Eddie Lacy rushed for 181 yards and TJ Yeldon added 153, while Georgia’s Todd Gurley ran for 122 yards, the seventh-highest total in championship game history. In 2004, Tennessee’s Gerald Riggs rushed for 182 yards, while Auburn’s Ronnie Williams tallied 100.
FIRST DOWNS RUSHING RECORD & THIRD HIGHEST TOTAL OFFENSE:
The 18 first downs rushing is a championship game record bettering the previous mark of 15 set by the Tide vs. Florida in 1999.
Alabama’s 512 yards of total offense ranks third all-time behind 589 by Auburn in 2010 and 559 by Auburn in 2004. It’s 7.1 yards per play also ranks second behind Auburn’s 8.3 ypp in 2010.
MURRAY MOVES UP SEC TD PASS CHART:
Aaron Murray moved past Tennessee’s Peyton Manning into second place on the SEC’s career touchdown passes list with his 90th to TE Jay Rome at 13:59 in the second quarter, a 19-yard strike. Manning had 89 from 1994-97. Florida’s Danny Wuerffel tops the list with 114 from 1993-96.
Georgia’s Tavarres King’s 142 receiving yards is the fourth highest total in championship game history, while Alabama’s Amari Cooper’s 127 receiving yards was the seventh-highest total in championship game history.
Georgia TE Jay Rome scored the game’s first touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Aaron Murray at 13:59 in the second quarter. It was his second touchdown reception of the season.
Alabama’s Eddie Lacy scored from 41 yards out at 1:59 in the second quarter to tie the game at 7. It was his 15th rushing touchdown of the season.
Georgia’s Todd Gurley gave Georgia a 14-10 lead with his 15th rushing touchdown of the season at 12:09 in the third quarter. Gurley rushed for 44 yards on 75-yard drive. He had 46 yards rushing before that drive.
Alec Ogletree returned blocked field goal 55 yards for a touchdown to give Georgia a 21-10 lead at 6:31 in the third quarter. Cornelius Washington recorded the block; the second field goal blocked by Georgia this season. It was the first field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown against Alabama since Kentucky in 1997.
TJ Yeldon’s 10-yard rush and two-point conversion pulled Alabama to within 21-18 at 4:19 in the third. It was his 11th rushing score of the season. He rushed for 47 yards on the drive. He had 44 yards rushing before the drive.
Eddie Lacy scored from 1 yard out with 14:57 in the fourth quarter as Alabama retook the lead at 25-21. It was marked the 14th time an individual scored two touchdowns in the Championship game and pushed Lacy’s season total to 16.
Todd Gurley gave Georgia a 28-25 lead with a 10-yard touchdown run at 12:54 in the fourth quarter for his 16th rushing score of the season.
Alabama retook the lead again on a 45 yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper at 3:15 in the fourth quarter, 32-28. It was Cooper’s ninth receiving TD of the season and tied for the longest pass play of the game.
Georgia converted a fake punt at 14:54 in the second quarter on 16 yard pass from Arthur Lynch to Sanders Commings to the Alabama 20. It was the first pass attempt, completion and reception for the duo. It led to the game’s first score.
Alabama tried a fake punt late in the first quarter but had the play called back due to a delay of game penalty.
GETTING TO THE QB:
Georgia forced the game’s first turnover on Jarvis Jones’ sack of A.J. McCarron at 9:33 in the first quarter. On the play, Jones forced his seventh fumble of the season while recording his team-leading 11.5 sack.
Alabama’s Xzavier Dickson recorded two first quarter sacks to push his season total to 3.5. The two sacks are a season high for a Tide defender. Adrian Hubbard had 1.5 against Ole Miss.
The Alabama defense put the pressure on Georgia QB Aaron Murray with six hurries and two sacks in the first quarter. They finished with seven hurries, two sacks and one interception at the break.
Georgia’s John Jenkins recorded his first sack of the season at 12:24 in the second quarter.
Georgia’s Sanders Commings recorded his third interception of the season at 6:41 in the second quarter in the end zone, stopping an Alabama drive.
Alabama’s HaHa Clinton-Dix recorded his fourth interception of the season at 1:15 in the second quarter.
Jarvis Jones recorded his second QB sack of the game at 10:54 in the third to push his season total 12.5. It is his fifth multi-sack game of the season.
Adrian Hubbard recorded his sixth sack of the season on Georgia’s second to last drive in the fourth quarter.