Gut wrenching, the edge of your seat anticipation, pageantry, drama it’s not a suspenseful movie it’s #1 Alabama vs. #4 Georgia for the SEC Championship. The beast from the east vs. the beast from the west. A dead to right bullet of an on-target pass thrown by Jake Fromm towards Mecole Hardman broken up by Shyheim Carter at the last second otherwise Georgia keeps their potential game-winning drive going. Then a fake punt that gave Alabama possession at midfield.
The forgotten one Jalen Hurts who came off the bench symbolic of last year when Tua Tagoloiva did the same put together a game-winning drive. The big play came on 3rd and 8. It was a 19-yard pass to Irv Smith Jr.., followed by a scrambling 16-yard pass to Jaylen Waddle to pick up another first down. Hurts called his own number a quarterback draw right up the gut the defender nearly ripped his head off at the goal line, but nothing short of death was going to keep this outstanding young man out of the end zone to will his team to victory.
It was an ending befitting a hero. In a society commonly referred to as the lost generation, Jalen Hurts exemplifies team. During the quarterback controversy, not a word, during the season, not a peep when I asked him the question. How does it feel for all you have gone through to come off the bench and contribute to this amazing win he said, “ kinda feel like I am breaking my silence. I haven’t said anything all year, but this team has worked really hard. In the off-season last spring, we know what adversity looks like. Sometimes we’re going to get hit in the mouth, but we know that we are going to be fine. We did a great job of getting it done today. I think we did a great job of doing that.”
The Heisman Trophy front-runner Tua Tagovailoa went down with an ankle injury 11:15 mark of the 4th quarter. Dejavu crossed my mind thinking wouldn’t it be nice for Jalen Hurts if he could lead the comeback. His first pass was for 13 yards he converted the teams first 3rd down of the game that’s right Alabama’s first 3rd down conversion came in the fourth quarter. It was Hurts time. He connected with Jaylen Waddle on a 23-yard pass. The oxygen was sucked out of the stadium when he tied the game at 28 with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy.
Georgia lost the National Championship after a commanding 13-0 lead in the first half now they had allowed Alabama to come back from 14 points down to tie. How could this be?
Saban had kind words for Jalen Hurts: I’ve probably never been more proud of a player than Jalen. It’s unprecedented to have a guy that won as many games this whole time that he was a starter, and then all of a sudden he’s not the quarterback. How do you manage that? How do you handle that? You’ve got to have a tremendous amount of character and class to put the team first, knowing your situation is not what it used to be, and for a guy that’s a great competitor, that takes a lot. It’s not easy to do.
Georgia was first to score that was like a heavyweight boxer getting stung in the nose causing him to be dazed and confused. Alabama has lead in every game except Ole Miss, and that was for only seventy seconds. Bama wasn’t Bama they dropped passes that hit them directly in their hands, Tua was harassed and looked uncomfortable the Crimson Tide were being tested for the first time all season.
Tua threw an interception at the goal line that killed their momentum. The Bulldogs had them right where they wanted them. After a play, I had never seen where after further review the Alabama player fumbled the ball and recovered it for a touchdown the score was 21-14 at the half.
Jake Fromm was dropping dimes all night throwing the ball with pinpoint accuracy, at one point he completed ten straight tying an SEC Championship record. When he missed, he missed right so the defender couldn’t get to the ball. He made great decisions to throw it away; I didn’t understand the strategy with bringing in Justin Fields a great talent for the future but not the here and now. Over the five past games Fromm has been on fire he finished the game 25-39 for 301 yards and 3 touchdowns. Fromm’s completions, TD passes, and yards were the most by a Bulldog in an SEC Championship game.
His counterpart Tua Tagovailoa 10-25 for 164 yards 2 interceptions and 1 touchdown easily his least productive game of the season. Josh Jacobs was the games most valuable player he made key runs to keep Alabama in the game none more important than the 59-yard blast in the first half. He contributed 8 carries for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns. Georgia scored no points off two Alabama turnovers while the Crimson Tide forced no turnovers.
The dynamic running duo of D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holifield combined for 135 yards far less than our 225-yard projection they needed to win the game. With that said Georgia had the game but let it get away AGAIN. Kirby Smart is an outstanding coach he has three years of experience in that role, and all new head coaches have to experience growing pains. The decision to run the fake punt at such a critical stage of the game will be debated for weeks however it shouldn’t define the head coach, that’s the difference between good, and great remember he has seen the living legend Nick Saban do it for years.
Here is his explanation on the mindset of the fake punt.
“Yeah, we had been carrying that for -actually carried it last year. Thought it was there, and it was there today. We were going to snap the ball quickly. We took too long to snap the ball. They didn’t have a guy covered. We had a guy wide open. We took so long to snap it that they recognized it and got the guy covered late. It was probably 20, 30 yards’ field position that — we came to win the game. We wanted to win the game.
I talked to the guys before the game about it. If we get an opportunity to run it, we’ll run it. It was there. We just didn’t get an opportunity to get it snapped before they covered the guy.
Sweet Home Alabama Crimson Tide are the 2018 Undefeated SEC Champions knocking off Georgia 35-28. If you are not an Alabama fan, you have to happy for the ultimate teammate Jalen Hurts.