Alabama exhales after narrow win over Georgia
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.
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.