In today’s college football landscape, some teams like Oregon and Arizona employ a spread offense, which is designed to get a defense in an open space, thus allowing the team with the ball to use its foot speed.
What transpired this past Saturday at the Georgia Dome when Alabama and Georgia clashed in the Southeastern Conference championship game, was smash-mouth football, designed to knock the defense on its wallet.
Crimson Tide Head Coach Nick Saban’s game plan was to run the ball, and it worked as Alabama held off the Bulldogs 32-28, and will next face top-ranked Notre Dame (12-0) in the Bowl Championship Series title game in Miami on January 7.
“This was a game between two heavyweight fighters,’’ said Saban, who is gunning for his fourth title since 2003 and third since 2009. “We had to run the ball. Georgia is a physical team, and we’re a physical team.”
Still, Georgia came within four yards of pulling off an upset as quarterback Aaron Murray marched the Bulldogs from their 15-yard line to the Tide four, but it ended when Chris Conley caught a four-yard pass as the clock expired. It did so because Georgia had no time outs.
Alabama, the defending national champ, rushed for an SEC title-game record 350 yards on 51 carries, with Eddie Lacy grinding out a game-high 181 yards on 20 carries, and T.J. Yeldon churning out 153 yards on 25 rushes.
Lacy and Yeldon are rugged and tough to bring down. Lacy is six-feet tall and weighs 220 pounds, while Yeldon is 6-2 and tips the scales at 216 pounds.
Georgia (11-2) pulled in front 28-25 when Todd Gurley (122 yards on 23 carries) capped a 75-yard march with a 10-yard run and 12:54 left in the final quarter.
When Gurley bulled his way into the end zone from three yards out and 12:09 showing in the third quarter, ending a nine-play, 75-yard drive, the No. 3 Bulldogs (113 yards on the ground) led 14-10.
Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron (13 of 21 for 162 yards and one interception) played well enough, but because the ground game was emphasized, he wasn’t the focal point.
That is until McCarron launched a 45-yard bomb to wide receiver Amari Cooper (127 yards on seven receptions) with 3:15 left that catapulted Alabama (12-1) into a four-point lead.
Some have questioned whether Murray has what it takes to lead the Bulldogs (394 total net yards) to the promised land.
Though Murray (18 of 33 for 265 yards with one pick) fell short, he proved capable of shining in a big game.
Murray moved the Bulldogs 87 yards on 13 plays, and closed the drive with a 19-yard toss to tight end Jay Rome and 13:59 left in the second quarter that made it 7-0.
But Lacy’s 41-yard sprint with 1:59 showing before the half tied it at 7-7, and finished a 70-yard trek, while Jeremy Shelley’s 22-yard field goal with no time showing in the second quarter gave the Tide (512 total yards) a 10-7 lead.
When Alec Ogletree recovered Cade Foster’s blocked 49-yard field goal and returned it 55 yards, Georgia led 21-10 with 6:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Alabama answered with 4:19 left in the third quarter on Yeldon’s 10-yard run that finalized a 62-yard march, and Yeldon’s two-point conversion sliced the lead to 21-18.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.