Al­abama ex­hales af­ter nar­row win over Ge­or­gia

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL -

In an epic and his­toric fin­ish, No. 1 Al­abama scored 14 straight fourth-quar­ter points be­hind backup quar­ter­back Jalen Hurts to take down No. 4 Ge­or­gia 35-28 in the 2018 SEC cham­pi­onship game in At­lanta and se­cure the top seed in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off.

The wild rally marks the largest come­back in SEC ti­tle game his­tory, sur­pass­ing the pre­vi­ous record of 11 points 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, this time it was Hurts sub­bing in for in­jured starter Tua Tago­v­ailoa and lead­ing the Crim­son Tide (13-0) 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 be helped off the field due 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 whether 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 third­down 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. Ge­or­gia (11-2) at­tempted to match Al­abama’s fi­nal score but was un­able to as the clock ticked away.

#5 Ok­la­homa 39, #9 Texas 27: A’s draft pick Kyler Mur­ray threw for 379 yards and three touch­downs and the Soon­ers (12-1, No. 5 CFP) avenged their only loss by beat­ing the Longhorns (9-4) in the Big 12 cham­pi­onship game at Ar­ling­ton, Texas. Mur­ray, the Heis­man Tro­phy-con­tend­ing dual-threat quar­ter­back, threw two TD passes to Grant Cal­caterra. That in­cluded an im­pres­sive 18-yard score on a 3rd-and-10 play with two min­utes left as the Soon­ers won their sev­enth con­sec­u­tive game de­spite be­ing held to fewer than 40 points for the first time in nine games. Sam Eh­linger was 23-of-36 pass­ing for 349 yards with two touch­downs, and ran for two scores for Texas (9-4), but his fi­nal pass was picked off by Tre Nor­wood at the 1 in the fi­nal minute. Ok­la­homa is the first Power Five team to win four con­sec­u­tive out­right con­fer­ence ti­tles since Florida in the SEC in the mid-1990s.

#7 UCF 56, Mem­phis 41: Backup quar­ter­back Darriel Mack Jr. scored six to­tal touch­downs in his sec­ond ca­reer start as the Knights over­came a 17-point deficit to beat the Tigers in the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game in Or­lando. Cen­tral Fl­roida outscored Mem­phis 35-3 in the sec­ond half to re­main un­de­feated and cap­ture its sec­ond con­sec­u­tive con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship. “This group han­dles ad­ver­sity bet­ter than any group that I’ve been around,” UCF coach Josh He­u­pel told the ABC broad­cast team af­ter the win. “... This is a cham­pi­onship team.”

#24 Iowa St. 27, Drake 24: David Mont­gomery ran for 145 yards and two touch­downs and the host Cy­clones (8-4) barely sur­vived a near-up­set by non­schol­ar­ship FCS school Drake. Brock Purdy had 153 yards pass­ing and a TD for the Cy­clones, who fought through per­sis­tent rain and a sloppy field to win their sixth straight home game, ty­ing a school record.

Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Al­abama quar­ter­back Jalen Hurts, who came in when starter Tua Tago­v­ailoa was in­jured, rushes for a 15-yard touch­down in the fourth quar­ter against Ge­or­gia in the SEC ti­tle game.

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