Barrett Jones hobbled through the Alabama locker room with a crutch supporting him, his left foot injured. TheCrimson Tide center hurt it during the first quarter of the Southeastern Conference championship game but never missed an offensive snap. This was no time to be injured – not with a trip to the BCS championship game on the line and 'Bama being pushed to the brink by inspired Georgia. So he played through the pain for 60 minutes, then smiled through it when the game was won."Feel great," he said. "Couldn't be better."
"I told my right guard [Anthony Steen] we can't be stopped together," said Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker. "Run the ball down their throat. That's what we did today." Indeed, Lacy and Yeldon spent much of the second half running through the gaping holes set up by their blockers. Lacy, who spent his first two seasons shadowing Heisman winner Mark Ingram and Heisman finalist Trent Richardson, turned in the best game of his career, breaking a 41-yard touchdown for Alabama's first score and a 32-yard gain to start the drive that put the Tide up 24-21 on the first play of the fourth quarter. At that point, Georgia's defenders were visibly tired and flummoxed. Bulldogs nosetackle John Jenkins asked Fluker after the game to explain what type of run-blocking technique he used because "no one had ever used it against me."
Jenkins, still baffled by Alabama’s blocking, sought out Fluker after the game. During the game, Jenkins would collide with Steen or Fluker, who would immediately get their hands on him and steer him out of the hole. If Fluker occupied Jenkins, or defensive lineman Kwame Geathers, Steen would come in from the side and move him just enough for Lacy to squeeze through. "They caught me off guard because nobody had ever used it on me," Jenkins said of the blocking strategy. "Somehow, he would draw my momentum to him and get in front of me. They were technically sound. It was position blocking." Georgia led by 21-18 in the third quarter when Alabama flew down the field — not with the pass, but with the run. The drive started with 3 minutes 4 seconds left in the per...
I want to believe that Notre Dame will beat Alabama with the same defense-and-discipline approach that has fueled some of the greatest upsets in college football history. I want to believe this is like Penn State shocking Miami in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, or Ohio State shocking Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. But I just watched Alabama. And then I talked to Alabama players, and besides being so maddeningly nice and aggravatingly polite, they sound so much like Saban that it's frightening. Star running back Eddie Lacy, who ran for 176 yards and may test positive for steel, said he didn't pay attention to any Georgia pregame trash talk, because "that's an external factor." Left tackle D.J. Fluker said the Tide's success is "about preparation. We're prepared for anything." And Warmack said he never worried about the score because "you don't want to deviate from the program. Whatever you do during the week is how you do in the game." This is what the best coaches do. They don't just call plays. They create a belief system and get players to subscribe to it. And that's another problem for Notre Dame. I just can't imagine this Alabama team getting cocky and assuming it will beat the Fighting Irish. And if Notre Dame does jump to a lead, the Tide won't panic. There is no fear in this group. Alabama is the best team in the country. It is almost an honor when a team this good stabs you in the heart.
In some ways, it might have been easier to take if the game had ended at midfield, where Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner appeared to pick off Murray's downfield attempt with 45 seconds remaining. But after instant replay ruled it an incompletion, Georgia had another shot and enough time. For Alabama, which thought the game was over at that point, it was a potentially perilous turn of events. "It was a completely different mindset than we had prior to that happening," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "Everybody thought we won the game and everybody is sort of celebrating on the sidelines and now you have to go back and really make some critical plays. It takes a tremendous amount of maturity to re-center yourself and put yourself in the right psychological disposition to compete, and we gave them three bang-bang plays."
How much of a battle was it? Alabama All-American center Barrett Jones injured his foot in the first quarter but played through excruciating pain for the next 50 minutes. He left the Crimson Tide locker room on crutches. Alabama nose guard Jesse Williams wrecked his right knee with 13:13 left in the third quarter, and it looked like he wouldn't be able to return as he limped around the Tide sideline for several minutes, before retiring to the bench with a towel over his head. On the first play of the fourth quarter, though, Williams was back in the game at fullback, opening a hole for tailback Eddie Lacy on a 1-yard touchdown that gave the Tide a 25-21 lead with 14:57 left. Williams said he'll have an MRI on his injured knee Sunday. "Once I knew it wasn't anything serious, I knew I could go back in the game and fight through it," said Williams, a 320-pound senior from Australia who sports a tattoo on the side of his head that reads, "Pain Is A Liar."
Confetti dropped from the Georgia Dome ceiling as No. 2 Alabama celebrated a 32-28 Southeastern Conference championship game victory and the No. 3 Bulldogs tried to come to grips with what went wrong at the end. Linebacker Alec Ogletree removed a towel that draped his head and slammed it against the ground several times as he headed through a tunnel. Tears slid down senior receiver Tavarres King’s cheek outside the locker room after coach Mark Richt addressed the team in the postgame locker room. Georgia (11-2) won’t have its first national title since 1980 or its first SEC title since 2005. "I’m crushed, man," King said. "To be honest, we’re crushed. It stinks. To be so close and to taste victory against a phenomenal team at this stage, at this game, it hurts, it really hurts. … Those dreams were crushed today."
The Crimson Tide rallied, behind the running game, but Georgia’s offense rallied, too. The Bulldogs led 28-25 after Todd Gurley scored on a 10-yard run with 12:54 left. But for all Alabama’s running, it was a long pass play that was the game-winner. Quarterback AJ McCarron hit Amari Cooper for a 45-yard touchdown pass with 3:15 left. A chance for the Bulldogs to go to the national championship game was gone. Still, Georgia had its final chance, which players, coaches and fans will think about for a long time. "Hopefully I won’t dwell on it forever," Robinson said. "It’s messed up. But this team brought life back. I think people believed. And I think people still realize how close we really were to doing something that hadn’t been done in 30 years." Senior nose tackle John Jenkins put it another way. "A lot of people thought we were gonna get rolled over," he said. "We proved that we’re a better team than what people expect us to be."