In a game that pits two stingy defenses and explosive running backs against each other, special teams often goes overlooked and underappreciated.
That was not the case Saturday in Georgia’s 32-26 loss to Alabama that sent the Crimson Tide to the BCS National Championship.
Facing fourth-and-8 at the Georgia 32-yard line, Alabama sent kicker Cade Foster in to attempt a 49-yard field goal, only to have it sent the other way by senior Cornelius Washington and returned by Alec Ogletree 55-yards for a touchdown.
“There wasn’t really anything special that I saw,” said Washington. “I just got a good get-off and was able to break the line. I was standing over the ball before the kicker got to it.”
The Crimson Tide were hoping to cut trim Georgia’s 14-10 lead but instead saw Georgia snatch a 21-10 lead, sending the 75, 624 fans in the Georgia Dome into a frenzy.
“I started chasing (Ogletree) at one point, but when I realized I couldn’t catch him, I just stopped and started celebrating,” said Washington. “I knew we were going to score because nobody was even close to him.”
The blocked field goal, Georgia’s first since John Jenkins blocked one against South Carolina earlier this season, highlighted a myriad of momentum-swinging special teams plays in the battle between the No. 2 Crimson Tide and No. 3 Bulldogs.
The Crimson Tide attempted a fake punt on fourth-and-1, only to have the play called back due to a delay of game penalty. On the ensuing drive, the Bulldogs pulled out trickery of their own, faking a 4th-and-10 punt when punt protector Arthur Lynch threw a 16-yard pass to Sanders Commings.
“We’ve got two fake punts each week, and we had been practicing that for a while,” said Lynch. “Sanders ran the right route and there was a big, gaping hole in the defense.”
The Bulldogs would capitalize on the successful fake punt by scoring the game’s first touchdown two plays later.
Not all went right in the special teams department for Georgia. Kicker Marshall Morgan missed a 50-yard field goal that would have given the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead in the first quarter.
TE Rome’s touchdown gave Dogs early lead
Georgia struck first in Saturday’s SEC title game against the Crimson Tide when Aaron Murray connected with tight end Jay Rome for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
“Once I saw the safety come down, I took off at a high angle, and Murray put (the pass) on me,” said Rome, who caught his second touchdown pass of the season just one week after catching his first one against Georgia Tech.
Rome changed the intended route from a 10-yard out route into a corner after seeing the safety leave him open.
“Instead of breaking at a ninty-degree angle, I took it high,” said Rome. “We have the option to do that. It’s something that we—the tight ends—and the quarterback had worked on.”
King puts together another 100-yard performance in loss
For the sixth time in his career, senior Tavarres King racked up over 100 receiving yards Saturday against the Crimson Tide.
King caught a 33-yard pass on Georgia’s first scoring drive, and the Mt. Airy native hauled in a 31-yard catch on a third-and-1 play in Georgia’s opening drive of the second half which ended in a touchdown.
“We showed who we were,” said King. “We were pretty explosive as an offense today, and we played pretty well.”
King entered the game as the nation’s leader in yards-per-reception (18.4) and now ranks fourth in school history with 2,498 career receiving yards.
Richt defends himself, Aaron Murray in post-game press conference
Richt ended his post-game press conference Saturday with a stern exchange after a reporter questioned his coaching and Aaron Murray’s play in big games.
“There are some people whether it’s fans, media or whomever else that will maybe want to make further conclusions about you or your quarterback, specifically, in big games. Would you have any response to those people,” a reporter asked Richt.
“I don’t know what you’re saying,” replied Richt. “Why don’t you just say it straight up what you’re trying to say?”
The reporter rephrased his question.
“People will say that you and Aaron Murray specifically come up short on the biggest stage against the biggest opponents,” the reporter said.
Richt responded with a question of his own.
“Is that what you’re saying or everybody else,” said Richt. “Are you saying that?”
The reporter answered with “No, I’m saying I hear that every day,” before Richt cut him short.
“Well, that’s for you to worry about then,” said Richt. “If that’s what you say, then I’ll answer the question. If you think other people are saying that, I’m not worried about that.
“I want to say something else, if anybody thinks our guys didn’t play their tail off and Aaron Murray didn’t play his tail off, they are crazy. That’s unbelieveable somebody would even bring that up.”
Gurley passes Herschel, breaks 100-yard plateau again
Georgia’s freshman tailback Todd Gurley broke loose in the third quarter Saturday, rushing for 50 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. He picked up 44 yards on Georgia’s opening drive after the halftime break, and tied him Herschel Walker’s freshman touchdown record of 15 to cap the drive.
Before that series, Gurley had just 46 yards on eight carries.
Gurley later broke Walker’s record when he bounced off defenders for a 10-yard touchdown on Georgia’s opening drive of the fourth quarter.
Gurley finished with 122 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns. The freshman has now eight 100-yard rushing games, and his two touchdowns Saturday are only the eighth and ninth rushing touchdowns the Crimson Tide have allowed all season.
For the first time in SEC Championship Game history, neither team scored in the first quarter.
Jarvis Jones, who played with the flu, finished with two sacks against Alabama. He is now tied for fifth in school history with 26 career sacks, and the junior has 12.5 this season. Jones also forced a nation-leading seventh fumble. He now has 22.5 tackles for loss this season, one shy of David Pollack’s school record set in 2002.
Georgia forced two turnovers and only turned the ball over once to improve its turnover margin for the season to plus-9.
The Crimson Tide now own a 37-25-4 edge in the series, and the Bulldogs fell to 2-3 in SEC Championship games.