Alabama Breaks Georgia’s Heart National Champions
By: Greg Collier
It was indeed an All-SEC National Championship game played under the big top at Mercedes Benz Stadium. When you purchase a luxury automobile, you expect superior performance. When you build a luxury stadium, you expect the same, and that is what we got, a battle royal featuring the Beast from the East vs. the Beast from the West. It was so special the President of the United States was in attendance.
We had the Thrilla in Manilla; we had the Hail Mary, now we have seen the best play ever after the worst play ever. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama’s backup quarterback replaced Jalen Hurts at the half, sparked the Alabama offense and forced overtime against Georgia. The Bulldogs were winning by three points; it was Alabama’s turn for a possession. Tagovailoa dropped back for a pass the Dawgs defense was starving for a sack; he eluded the first defenders, had time to throw the ball away instead he held on to it and changed directions the second set of defenders got their meal by sacking him. He tried to do too much at the worst possible time the game was on the line.
It was hero or goat time. He committed the worst sin for a quarterback, taking a sack forcing the offense out of field goal range fury erupted from the Crimson Red and joy from the Georgia Red. He had done the unthinkable. Bama was facing second and twenty-six from the 41-yard line. On the next play, Tagovailoa made the best play in his life by throwing the perfect bullet of a game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass to Devonta Smith to beat the Georgia Bulldogs 26-23 to win the true college football National Championship.
I don’t know if it was the fear of facing a raging Saban or the desire not to fail his teammates whatever it was he got in touch with the right force to deliver another dramatic ending to the college football season. Ironically Alabama lost last year to Clemson on the last second of the game this year they won more dramatically.
Take absolutely nothing from the Georgia Bulldogs they played their hearts and souls out they left everything they had on the field and came up short. Unfortunately, someone had to lose a National Champion had to be declared. SEC Freshman of the Year Jake Fromm was outstanding. He played the game of his life connecting on 16-32 passes for 232 yards and 1 touchdown and what a doozie it was. Alabama had scored on a 7 play 56-yard drive to earn their first score of the game. Fromm delivered an 80-yard missile to Mecole Hardman. It was exactly what they needed to snatch the momentum back at the most opportunist time, Bama had it but big-time Jake went State Fromm, and they had no insurance policy, after further review the play stood the Dawgs were out of the cage 20-7.
Back to the overtime period, Georgia got the luck of the draw first possession. Terrell Lewis sacked Jake Fromm for a 13-yard loss; kicker Rodrigo Blankenship nailed a 51-yard field goal to give the Dawgs a 23-20 lead. The Championship was in the oven baking Bulldog fans could smell the aroma it was going to be tasty. Unfortunately, the oven broke, and the repairman cannot make the service call until next year.
Sony Michel carried the ball 14-98 yards and Nick Chubb 18-39 yards for a total of 137 yards as predicted Georgia was not going to win the game if the dynamic duo could not gain 200 yards. I just didn’t predict over time.
The Student Kirby Smart gave the teacher Nick Saban a scare, but the living legend made the right call once again. I asked the question Coach Saban, two seasons ago we saw you make a fantastic decision to do an onside kick, and it worked for you. Today we see the change in quarterback, and it worked. Is this just part of the excellence that you were speaking about earlier this week?
NICK SABAN: I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I think that, to a large degree, I trust players, players that do things the right way, players who prepare the right way, practice the right way, they’re dependable. We try to create a culture of accountability for our players so that they can be successful personally, academically, and athletically. When players respond to that and do it, I have total faith, trust, and confident to put them out there.
Micah Fitzpatrick started the game like a man possessed sacking Fromm for a loss on the first play and making the tackle on the second play. Georgia started the game with a focus on passing. Unfortunately, the strategy resulted in an interception by Tony Brown it wasn’t all on the quarterback Brown just manhandled the ball away from the receiver. They made the best of a bad situation by forcing an unsuccessful 40-yard field goal attempt; Andy Papanastos was wide left. I asked the question Coach; you came out today seemingly passing the ball more. Was that out of respect for their defense and you just knew that you needed more passing yards if you were going to win this thing?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I think — I don’t know if they’re first in rush defense in the country, I don’t know. But they’ve got big guys up front. It’s hard to run the ball against Alabama. It’s really tough. That’s what makes them great. They’ve got depth in the front. Nick does a tremendous job of recruiting defensive linemen, and they make it really hard to run the ball. So we wanted to be able to throw it and loosen them up. I thought Jake did a good job, and in the end we were able to run the ball some. But when it mattered most and counted most, we couldn’t close it out and run the ball for first downs, and it probably hurt us.
The first quarter ended the way it started 0-0. It was officially a standoff. A tug of war if you will both teams tugging on the other which one would allow the crack in their defensive armor. It was BAMA. Georgia was first to score on a 41 field goal by R. Blankenship.
So much was said about Alabama’s defense but Georgia’s defense was winning the battle. They were swarming and getting to hurts causing him pain. With 1:19 before the halftime break Jake Fromm was looking confident his growth was happening right before us when he missed passes he missed them the right way so no defender could get to the ball. They were moving into scoring position Alabama got caught with twelve men on the field maybe they needed an extra player it did not work so they roughed the passer, and that didn’t work Mecole Hardman walked into the end zone from the wildcat position for a 1-yard touchdown. The Dawgs were up 13-0.
They were winning the game in every important category 223 total yards to Bama’s 94. 126 passing yards to Bama’s 97. They had run 47 plays and Bama had only 24. It looked like Deja Vue Bama’s defense could not get off the field, and Georgia was converting on third downs to extend drives.
It was time for Alabama football the college football wizard Nick Saban switched quarterbacks from Jalen Hurts to freshman Tua Tagovaiola ESPN’s top Dual Quarterback in the class of 2017. He came in firing on all cylinders with a deep pass just over the outstretched fingertips of Calvin Ridley then Tagovaiola pulled off some magic a whodini type escape to elude five Georgia defenders. That was the play that sparked the comeback. It resulted in a 7 play 56-yard touchdown that was capped off by a 6-yard pass to Henry Rugg lll.
It was the best 1:59 seconds of the game Bama had hope 13-7. Before their next score, Sweet Home Alabama played from the heavens the dead elephant in Crimson came to life. They went on to tie the score at 20-20. They got conservative on the last drive in regulation moving the ball to the middle of the field for a game-winning 31-yard field goal with .03 seconds remaining Andy Pappanastos missed it to set the stage for the miraculous overtime victory. The Alabama Crimson Tide are the 2018 CFP National Champions.