ATLANTA — In an epic and historic finish, backup quarterback Jalen Hurts scored 14 straight fourth-quarter points to help No. 1 Alabama take down No. 4 Georgia in the 2018 SEC Championship Game and secure the top seed in the College Football Playoff. The wild rally, part of a 21-0 run, marks the largest comeback in SEC title game history. The previous record of 11 points was held by, of all teams, Georgia over Alabama in 2012.
In a finish akin to what went down in last year’s CFP National Championship Game, this time it was Hurts subbing in for injured starter Tua Tagovailoa and leading the Crimson Tide to a come-from-behind 35-28 victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hurts entered the game with just over 10 minutes to play in regulation after Tagovailoa had to bedue to his second ankle injury of the afternoon. Tagovailoa has been battling multiple injuries for the better part of the season and had to leave the game briefly in the first half. Hurts came in during the second quarter in relief and completed one pass for a loss of 1 yard before Tagovailoa returned.
However, Tagovailoa clearly wasn’t close to 100 percent as he continued to play. He threw two interceptions, looked hesitant all game and made a string poor decisions. He finished the day 10-of-25 passing for 164 yards, his worst numbers of the season. As the game progressed with Georgia carrying a 14-point lead, many began wondering if coach Nick Saban would pull Tagovailoa for Hurts. With Tagovailoa unable to play, Hurts finished off a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 28. Hurts went 3-of-3 passing for 46 yards in third-down situations on that drive, including a 10-yard touchdown to Jerry Jeudy.
Hurts then led a five-play, 52-yard touchdown drive on the ensuing offensive possession to go ahead 35-28, ending in a 15-yard touchdown run by the quarterback on a draw. For the game, Hurts finished 7-of-9 passing for 82 yards and a touchdown while adding 28 yards and a score on the ground.
While Hurts’ own shot at glory is a story so good that even Hollywood is jealous, the other side of it is Georgia’s collapse. The Bulldogs were about to extend a 28-14 lead when the usually reliable Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 30-yard field goal with 8:20 remaining in the third quarter. That began a series of events that Georgia will replay in its head for a long time. The Bulldogs, who to that point had been out-muscling Alabama and enjoying efficient days from quarterback Jake Fromm and running back D’Andre Swift, had just two first downs on the ensuing three possessions.
Then, down a touchdown with three minutes remaining, the Bulldogs attempted a fake field goal on fourth-and-11 at midfield. It was promptly diagnosed and stopped by Alabama. Georgia coach Kirby Smart put quarterback Justin Fields on the field, a tell-tale sign the fake was coming. Balancing Fields and Fromm has been problematic at times this season, and with Fromm playing lights out, this was a misuse of Fields.
Georgia attempted to match Alabama’s final score on a Hail Mary with only seconds remaining, but was unable to as the ball was batted away. Fromm finished the game 25-of-39 passing for 301 yards and three touchdowns. However, Smart falls to 0-2 against his former boss with both losses coming in dramatic fashion. For all intents and purposes, the Bulldogs are eliminated from the playoff race.
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