Georgia suffers first defeat of the season at the hands of Alabama in SEC title game

·6 min read

Georgia had been at the top of college football for almost the entire season.

But Alabama knocked off the Bulldogs 41-24 Saturday, taking the SEC Championship and likely Georgia’s No. 1 ranking heading into the College Football Playoff.

The 12-1 Bulldogs did enough throughout the season to make the four-team CFP, but Saturday’s loss to a surging Crimson Tide leaves Georgia with plenty of questions to answer before their New Year’s Eve bowl game against Michigan.

The two teams traded punts to open the game as neither offense could get going after getting an early first down.

On their second possession, Georgia’s offense put together an 11-play drive for 52 yards but was forced to settle for a 38-yard field goal from Jack Podlesny.

After another Alabama punt, the Bulldogs drove it 97 yards for a touchdown from quarterback Stetson Bennett to tight end Darnell Washington.

Georgia’s 10-0 lead didn’t last long as Jameson Williams took a pass from quarterback Bryce Young for a 67-yard touchdown.

The Tide forced a quick three-and-out, allowing Young to go back to work completing passes of 40 and 23 yards before making what may have been the play of the game: Young scrambled forward before pitching the ball outside to running back Brian Robinson for a 13-yard gain. Young then hit John Metchie for a 13-yard touchdown.

The Georgia offense once again looked outmatched on the next drive gaining just five yards in three plays. Alabama added to its lead with a 33-yard field goal from Will Reichard.

Bennett and the offense would respond with a 75-yard drive in three plays capped by a screen pass to wide receiver Ladd McConkey for a 32-yard score to tie the game at 17.

Young may have wrapped up the Heisman Trophy on the next drive as he rushed for key 11-yard touchdown with just 26 seconds left in the first half. Alabama went into the half up 24-17 and got the first possession of the second half.

If the Heisman wasn’t already coming home to Young, he likely clinched it on a 55-yard touchdown to wide receiver Jameson Williams on the fifth play of the second half.

On the first two drives of the second half, the Georgia offense gained 110 yards but came away with no points after an interception and a turnover on downs. The Bulldogs went into the fourth quarter down 31-17.

Photo gallery: Georgia versus Alabama in SEC Championship game

Georgia’s first drive of the fourth quarter ended in disaster as Bennett threw his second interception of the day. This one proved to be costly as Jordan Battle returned it for a 40-yard touchdown.

This proved to be the dagger despite Bennett responding with a touchdown drive, capped by an 18-yard catch and run by Brock Bowers. The two teams traded punts on back-to-back drives.

The Tide took more than six minutes off the clock on the following drive and sealed the win with a 41-yard field goal from Reichard.

Georgia dropped to the No. 3 seed when the College Football Playoff selection committee released its latest rankings on Sunday. The Bulldogs will play in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31 against Big 10 champion, Michigan.

THREE STARS:

Bryce Young, Alabama QB: The sophomore quarterback put on perhaps his best performance of the season as he carved up the No. 1 ranked team and the best defense in the country.

Young finished with 421 yards on 26 completions for three scores. He also added a touchdown on the ground.

The Alabama quarterback will likely win the Heisman Trophy on the strength of this performance, giving the Crimson Tide back-to-back Heisman winners with wide receiver Devonta Smith taking home the award last season.

Jameson Williams, Alabama WR: When John Metchie exited the game on the final drive of the second half with an injury, it was up to Williams to step up.

Williams would do just that as he caught the 55-yard touchdown coming out of the half to extend Alabama’s lead. He also had the 67-yard score to open up the scoring for the Tide.

He finished with seven catches for 184 yards and two scores. Williams is a mismatch due to his speed and he terrorized the Georgia secondary all game.

Brock Bowers, Georgia TE: The freshman tight end was one of the few bright spots in the game. Bowers finished with 10 catches for 139 yards and a score. Bowers will be a key component for them against Michigan and he may need to have a big game in order for them to reach the National Championship.

THEY SAID IT:

“It didn’t do any damage. What it did is reinvigorated our energy. It recenters you, right? Their greatest thing is when they lost their game against Texas A&M, they garnered some focus and some attention. To me, that’s an opportunity for a wake-up call, if anything.” - Georgia head coach Kirby Smart if the loss hurts the team mentally going forward.

“This is a wake-up call. We got to bring it every Saturday. We got to take what is ours. Nothing is going to be given to us.” -Defensive end Nolan Smith on how to move forward from the loss.

“We are either elite or we are not. We were not elite in this game. We got to get back to the drawing board. It is not about damaging pride. It is about having pride in the G. We wear a G on our chest for something bigger than us.” -Smith if the game hurt the team’s pride at all.

“I think we had a tremendous amount of respect for Georgia, their team, and what they accomplished. But you guys gave us a lot of really positive rat poison. The rat poison that you usually give us is usually fatal, but the rat poison that you put out there this week was yummy.” -Alabama head coach Nick Saban on the motivation heading into the title game.

WHAT’S NEXT?

College Football Playoff

Georgia is still the best one-loss team in the nation. The Bulldogs will be in the playoffs and their spot was all but guaranteed heading into Sunday despite the loss especially with Oklahoma State falling to Baylor in the Big 12 title game.

Georgia will slot in as the No. 3 seed and will take on Michigan, who knocked off Iowa in the Big 10 title game by a score of 42-3.

The committee ranked Alabama at No. 1, Michigan at No. 2 Georgia at No. 3 and Cincinnati at No. 4. The committee was able to avoid the rematch between Alabama and Georgia in the first round.

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