ATLANTA -- It will be remembered as the "Run, Lacy, run," SEC Championship Game as University of Alabama fans haven't screamed for rushing plays like this since "Forrest Gump" came out in 1994.
But when the Crimson Tide finally did run Saturday at the Georgia Dome, it couldn't be stopped. Junior running back Eddie Lacy accumulated 185 yards on 20 carries and scored two touchdowns, and Alabama found a way to survive for a gut-wrenching 32-28 victory over Georgia to win coach Nick Saban's fourth league title.
Consequently, Alabama (12-1, 7-1 SEC) will return to the BCS Championship Game to try to win its third crystal football in four years, this time against No. 1 Notre Dame in Miami on Jan. 7.
"We kind of had that 'I would-not-be-denied' attitude out there today," Saban said. "I'm not saying we played our best football game of the year in terms of execution, but the way we were able to run the ball, especially in the second half, was probably the difference in the game. And the offensive line, the two running backs, Eddie, did a fantastic job."
Even though the No. 2 Crimson Tide set an SEC Championship Game record with 353 rushing yards, it was anything but easy.
A low-scoring first half turned into a wild finish. The lead changed hands four times as Alabama rallied from a 21-10 deficit, outscoring Georgia 22-7 in the final 19 minutes. AJ McCarron's 45-yard touchdown pass to freshman Amari Cooper with 3:15 left proved to be the game-winner.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray tried to rally the Bulldogs (11-2, 7-1) for one last score, driving from their 15-yard line to the Alabama 4, where Chris Conley was tackled as time ran out.
"The ball got batted and it ended up in the arms of the guy that was
running the speed-out," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Just a tough thing. You'd like a guy that has the presence of mind to bat the ball down, but I don't know if there's anybody in America that would have thought of that one."
McCarron completed 13 of 21 passes for 162 yards, one touchdown and an interception for Alabama. Freshman T.J. Yeldon ran for 152 yards on 25 attempts and scored once.
Murray completed 18 of 33 throws for 265 yards, a TD and an interception for Georgia, and Todd Gurley ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
Georgia spent a good part of the scoreless first quarter in Alabama territory, with a sack and fumble by All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones and the Crimson Tide leading to a missed 50-yard field goal.
However, on fourth-and-10 at the Alabama 36, tight end Arthur Lynch found Sanders Commings for a 16-yard gain up the middle. Two players later, Murray caught Robert Lester playing up toward the line and completed a 19-yard touchdown pass behind the senior safety to Jay Rome.
But Alabama had perhaps an even bigger gaffe. McCarron threw one up for Cooper for a 44-yard gain as Alabama quickly drove down to the Georgia 1. But McCarron's quick-out to Cooper was picked off in the end zone by Commings.
"That was one of the toughest (games) of my life," Alabama senior tight end Michael Williams said. "Came out, we took the first hit. They had our number the first half. We jabbed, we jabbed, we jabbed, and finally we got the knockout punch at the end."
Alabama then went to the run, and Lacy broke a 41-yard touchdown to tie the game with 1:59 left before halftime. The Tide took the lead on Jeremy Shelley's 22-yard field goal after Murray was picked off by sophomore safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and drilled by Quinton Dial during the return.
Georgia opened the second half with a touchdown drive and blocked field goal by Cornelius Washington that bounced right over kicker Cade Foster's head and to Alec Ogletree for a 55-yard return for a 21-10 lead.
Alabama answered with Yeldon breaking a 31-yard gain to set up his 10-yard touchdown run, and Lacy grinded away and capped a 74-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
That lead was short-lived as a 45-yard reception by Tavarres King set up a 10-yard run by Gurley and 28-25 fourth-quarter lead.
But McCarron hit Cooper for a 45-yard touchdown off a play-action to complete the scoring and break Georgia's heart once again.
"Somebody just asked me a second ago what I thought the difference was, and only thing I can think of is we just ran out of time," Richt said. "But just one of those games."
NOTES: With the win the Crimson Tide claimed the SEC title for the 23rd time. In addition to its 23 SEC Championships, Alabama also won four Southern Conference titles (1924, 1925, 1926 and 1930), giving the school 27 conference football championships. ... Alabama is 49-0 since the start of the 2008 season when rushing for at least 150 yards. The Crimson Tide rushed for 152 yards in the first half Saturday. ... Crimson Tide senior nose tackle Jesse Williams went down with a knee injury on the first possession of the second half. After putting a brace on, he was able to return in the fourth quarter. Reserve nose guard Brandon Ivory was playing on a sprained ankle. ... Alabama kicker Cade Foster hadn't attempted a field goal since Oct. 20 against Tennessee or made one since Florida Atlantic on Sept. 15. ... Alabama is 4-4 in the SEC Championship Game, while Saban is 4-1 including a 34-13 win against the Bulldogs in 2003 when he was with LSU. The lone loss was to Florida in 2008, which he avenged a year later when the Crimson Tide went on to beat Texas in the Rose Bowl for the national championship. Georgia coach Mark Richt is 2-2 in SEC title games. ... The individual record for rushing yards in the SEC Championship Game is 201 by LSU's Justin Vincent in 2003 against Georgia. ... Lacy was named game MVP. He and Vincent are the only running backs to ever win the award.
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