SEC Championship Game: Hurts plays the hero for Alabama

QB leads fourth-quarter rally in win over Georgia

By JEFFERY WINBORNE, Eagle Sports Correspondent
Posted 12/1/18

ATLANTA — For the second time in a calendar year, Alabama needed a second-half comeback against Georgia inside Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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SEC Championship Game: Hurts plays the hero for Alabama

QB leads fourth-quarter rally in win over Georgia

Posted

ATLANTA — For the second time in a calendar year, Alabama needed a second-half comeback against Georgia inside Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

This time it would be former starting quarterback Jalen Hurts taking over and leading the top-ranked Crimson Tide to a 35-28 win over the No. 4 Bulldogs Saturday night, capturing Alabama’s 27th SEC Championship.

“It kind of feels like I’m breaking my silence. I haven’t said anything all year,” Hurts said about being able to come in and lead his team to a victory. “This team has worked really hard — in the offseason and last spring. We know what adversity looks like. Sometimes we may get hit in the mouth, but you know that we’re going to respond. I think we did a great job of finding a way to get it done today.”

After relieving a struggling and injured Tagovailoa trailing by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, Hurts marched his offense 71 yards down the field before throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy to tie the game at 28.

Alabama’s offense would take over again with just over 3:04 remaining in the game. Hurts completed passes to Irv Smith Jr. for 19 yards and Jaylen Waddle for 16 yards to set up the go-ahead touchdown.

“I had an option to — I had to find my movement key and see who would trigger the decision I’d make,” Hurts described his 10-yard quarterback run to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. “My guy went out so I took it in, had really good open lanes and found a way to get in the endzone.”

After coming into Championship Weekend as the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, Tua Tagovailoa struggled against Kirby Smart’s defense. The sophomore quarterback was sacked twice and constantly under pressure as he completed only 10 passes for 164 yards and a single touchdown — a 51-yard catch and run by Jaylen Waddle to make it a one score game late in the third quarter.

Midway through the fourth quarter Tagovailoa went down with a right ankle injury after having one of his own teammates step on his foot.

“Tua actually sprained his ankle in the first half — actually came back and played,” Nick Saban said of the injury. “The other injury he got stepped on, which I don’t think is significant.” Saban said the team will further evaluate Tagovailoa’s injury on Sunday but doesn’t anticipate it will cause him to miss any significant time.

Alabama’s defense struggled to contain Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm who had a career night, going 25-of-39 passing for 301 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers.

“People really have to give Georgia a lot of credit,” Coach Saban said after the game. “They played us better than anyone has played us all year. Based on the team we played this year, I think this team deserves to be in the Playoff as well — I sure as hell don’t want to play them again.”

Josh Jacobs, the Championship Game MVP, rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns for the Tide, including a pivotal touchdown late In the second quarter.

Jacobs fumbled on the one-yard line and was ruled on the field as a touchback. Video review showed he recovered his own fumble in the endzone to cut into Georgia’s dominating 21-7 lead just before halftime.

“It’s a great win. Winning the SEC is something that’s really significant to me,” Saban said. “It means a lot to our players. This is a great league with a lot of prestige and great fans. Our fans were certainly helpful and instrumental in helping us get the momentum late in the game.”

With a perfect 13-0 record and the SEC Championship secured, Alabama’s attention now turns to the College Football Playoff. With Georgia likely falling out of the Top 4 with two losses, it remains to be seen who the Playoff Committee will put at #4 to face Alabama on Dec. 29 in the Playoff Semifinals.