The University of Alabama will face the University of Notre Dame for college football’s national title after defeating the University of Georgia 32-28 in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
A.J. McCarron’s 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper with 3:15 remaining secured the victory yesterday and sent the Crimson Tide back to the Bowl Championship Series title game a year after the school beat Louisiana State University for its second national title in three years.
Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon combined for 334 yards rushing and three touchdowns as Alabama ran for 350 total yards, the most in the championship game’s history. Georgia had 113 yards rushing in a game that featured five lead changes, including four in the final 19:19.
“The way we were able to run the ball, especially in the second half, was probably the difference in the game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told reporters. “We beat a really good team out there today.”
The game ended when a pass by Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was deflected and caught by wide receiver Chris Conley at Alabama’s five-yard line as time expired.
“We just ran out of time,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “That was a knockdown, drag-out fight and everybody swung until the end. They just lined up and knocked us off the ball.”
In other college football games involving the Top 25-ranked BCS teams, it was No. 6 Kansas State 42, No. 18 Texas 24; No. 11 Oklahoma 24, Texas Christian 17; Wisconsin 70, No. 12 Nebraska 31; No. 13 Florida State 21, Georgia Tech 15; No. 15 Oregon State 77, Nicholls State 3; No. 20 Boise State 27, Nevada 21; and Baylor 41, No. 23 Oklahoma State 34.
Alabama (12-1) entered the game at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings, one spot ahead of Georgia (11-2), setting up what amounted to a semifinal for the national championship. No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) assured itself of a spot in the Jan. 7 BCS title game in Miami with a 22-13 victory at the University of Southern California on Nov. 24.
The game began with the first scoreless opening quarter in the championship’s 21-year history. Georgia took a 7-0 lead when freshman tight end Jay Rome caught a 19-yard pass from Murray. The score came two plays after Georgia picked up 16 yards on a fake punt on fourth down.
Alabama tied the game 7-7 on a 41-yard run by Lacy and went ahead 10-7 at the end of the first half when Jeremy Shelley kicked a 22-yard field goal as time expired. The Crimson Tide ran for 152 yards in the first half, compared with 45 for the Bulldogs.
After freshman running back Todd Gurley put the Bulldogs ahead 14-10 with a 3-yard run 2:51 into the third quarter, Georgia’s Alex Ogletree returned a blocked field goal 55 yards to increase the lead to 21-10. Alabama quickly came back as the running tandem of Yeldon and Lacy scored back-to-back touchdowns to put Alabama in the lead 25-21 early in the fourth quarter.
That lead lasted 2:03 before Gurley put the Bulldogs back in front 28-25 with a 10-yard touchdown run with 12:54 remaining. After relying on his running backs to carry the offense for most of the game, Albama’s McCarron went to the air, connecting with Cooper on a streaking pass down the left side of the field. Cooper outran Georgia cornerback Damian Swann on the play.
It’s the 23rd SEC title for Alabama and the second straight conference championship game loss for Georgia, whose only other defeat this season came on the road on Oct. 6, 35-7 to South Carolina. The Bulldogs lost to LSU in the 2011 conference title game.
Notre Dame, which plays as an independent school in football, will be seeking its first national title since 1988, while Alabama will look to extend the Southeastern Conference’s title-winning streak to seven straight years.
“We will be able to enjoy this for a little while, but we’ve got some challenges ahead,” Saban said.
In the Big Ten title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Montee Ball ran for 201 yards and three touchdowns and Melvin Gordon carried for 216 yards and one score as Wisconsin upset Nebraska. The Badgers (8-5, 4-4 Big Ten) accumulated 539 rushing yards.
James White carried 15 times for 109 yards to score four touchdowns and threw for a fifth for Wisconsin, which led 42-10 at halftime. The Badgers advanced to their third straight Rose Bowl.
Taylor Martinez completed 17 of 33 passing attempts for 184 yards and two interceptions, while carrying 19 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns for Nebraska (10-3, 7-1 Big Ten).