I mean. Cool. Props to Georgia for playing well enough to win the game. The healthy team won, and in a matchup of the two best teams in the country, that makes all the difference.
The first half was a major defensive struggle, with neither team really being able to move the ball. The two QBs each hit one deep pass, but both times wound up being stopped in the redzone and forced to kick field goals. The problem was, Biletnikoff-winning receiver Jameson Williams tore up his knee on a huge catch down the field, and that left Alabama playing a smattering of freshmen at receiver, since John Metchie was already out from the LAST Georgia game.
The second half was when things got a bit more zany. After another quick stuffing from the Alabama defense, Bryce Young went deep down the right sideline to TE Jahleel Billingsley. He was cut off by two Georgia defenders who stonewalled his attempt to go deep, and the ball fell haplessly to the deep safety for an interception.
Fortunately, the Alabama defense stood firm again, forced a punt, and this time, Brian Robinson put the team on his back. The senior running back broke tackle after tackle to get Alabama’s back off the wall, and the Tide got all the way down to the other side of the field.
Unfortunately, a 3rd down drop that might have even been a touchdown from freshman Agiye Hall (in his first ever real playing time in college) saw Alabama forced to kick another field goal, and this one was blocked.
James Cook managed to slip out and sprint down the field for a 67 yard rush, and suddenly Georgia was on top.
Bryce Young again led a phenomenal drive to get Alabama down the field despite Georgia sending house blitzes nearly every play, including an 28-yard catch and run from Hall as the make-up from his 3rd down drop the drive before. They weren’t able to punch the ball into the endzone, though, as Young was blasted as he threw it and missed a wide open Traeshon Holden in the endzone.
In their best effort to turn the game back around, Will Anderson and Christian Harris did their best to pancake Stetson Bennett. The slippery QB almost got away and tried to throw the ball out of bounds, but it kind of rolled backwards out of his hands and was grabbed by Brian Branch just before it bounced out. After a few centuries of reviewing, the crew eventually decided it was Alabama ball.
With a short field, Alabama FINALLY punch the ball in to the endzone, though it took Bryce Young scrambling and throwing back across his body on 3rd down to do it.
With 10 minutes left in the game, Georgia finally realized that the Tide was playing with two backup cornerbacks, and started chucking deep balls down the sideline. Khyree Jackson committed one very intentional pass interference to save a touchdown, and then followed it up by giving up a 40 yard bomb for the TD a couple of plays later. It was actually great coverage, he just missed the ball. Just a rough sequence for a player making his 1st collegiate start of his career.
The next drive was a predictable one, as Alabama ran for nowhere on first down, went deep to Hall on 2nd (where he was blocked in the chest 15 yards downfield, again), and the Georgia defensive back made a phenomenal pass breakup on 3rd.
Georgia’s next drive was basically the nail in the coffin. They finally got some gas in their running game after Phidarian Mathis was knocked out of the game with a borderline hit on the backside of a play, and then Georgia converted by throwing it deep and having their receiver bulldoze headfirst into Kool-Aid McKinstry, drawing a flag against Alabama. Not that it would have been nice to have that called against the Bulldog defense earlier or anything...
After that touchdown, it was game over. Alabama got the ball back with a shot to drive the field in 2 minutes for 8 points, but for some reason, Young decided to go deep on three straight plays. One was actually pretty much on the money and JaCorey Brooks had a step on the defender, but the Georgia DB discreetly hooked his arm, forcing Brooks to try and make the catch one handed.
The final shot was going back down the left sideline, and, once again, Holden was cut off by the defender and the safety over the top got a free pick that was returned for a touchdown to make it a 15 point game instead of the 1-score affair that it was the entire match.
With the season now over, there’s not too much I can talk about in terms of looking forward and what things mean.
The same issues that plagued Alabama’s offense returned today, as Bryce Young and Bill O’Brien struggled to figure out what to do against blitzes up the middle. It’s a book that’s been out on Young since the A&M game, and they never really figured it out. Even when he did get the ball out fast against the blitz, the bevy of green receivers either dropped it or failed to secure any meaningful yards after the catch.
Man, it just sucked not having 2,700 yards worth of receiving talent out there tonight. It really, really did.
And look, I was around in 2009 when Alabama defeated Texas after the Longhorns lost Colt McCoy. I won’t take anything away from Georgia or their defense. It was a phenomenal effort from them— particularly their linebackers, who made play after play going horizontal against the Alabama offense intent on trying to stretch them out— and they deserve all the credit and joy for their win. They’re the best team in the country this season.
For Alabama fans, though, it makes things a little easier to swallow to accept that playing with an entire squad of back up pass catchers, one healthy running back, and 40% of the offensive line injured just isn’t (nor should be expected to be) a recipe for success.
Defensively, Christian Harris had the best game of his career. He was all over the field and in the backfield playing at lightspeed. The dude made himself some money in the next NFL draft. Alabama pretty well shut down the Georgia offense... Until they realized they could throw it deep on, you guessed it, the Tide’s two backup corners in the game due to more injuries.
Again, credit to the Georgia guys for making those catches (the same catches that Alabama’s receivers just didn’t), and credit to their staff for knowing how to attack.
Most of us knew this game was over as soon as Jameson Williams’ knee blew out in the open field. There have been much, much more painful losses in championship games under Nick Saban.
This time, Alabama came into a game against a veteran team with a squad of sophomores, and they got beat. But, despite that, they played it neck and neck the whole way through with a chance to take the win all the way until the end, and that’s a heck of a lot better than any of us expected throughout most of this season.
Guys like Ja’Corey Brooks and Agiye Hall flashed their talent and showed their potential going forward, but have now been given a taste of the level of consistency and clutch plays needed in order to win a championship. The good news is... They’re freshmen, and the Tide returns most of this team back for 2022... And they all now what it takes to win it all.
They were really, really close this year, and it took a phenomenal effort and a mulligan for the best team in the nation to take them down. Now they get a shot to work on what they need to work on this offseason and run it back next year. Don’t be surprised if they go on a warpath.