Hurts rallies No. 1 Alabama to SEC title
Backup QB sparks the Tide after Tagovailoa injury in narrow triumph over the Bulldogs
Alabama 35 Georgia 28
— In a dramatic twist on last season’s national championship game, Jalen Hurts came off the bench to pass for one touchdown and run for another in the fourth quarter, rallying No. 1 Alabama to a 35-28 win over No.
4 Georgia for the Southeastern Conference title Saturday.
Heisman Trophy favorite Tua Tagovailoa had to be helped off the field with just over 11 minutes remaining after one of his own linemen stepped on the quarterback’s right ankle as he attempted to throw.
Enter Hurts, who led Alabama to the national title game as a freshman but lost the starting job to Tagovailoa. Hurts calmly guided the Crimson Tide (13-0, No. 1 CFP) to a game-tying touchdown with a 10-yard pass to Jerry Jeudy, capping a 16-play, 80-yard drive that consumed more than 7 minutes .
After Georgia (11-2, No. 4 CFP) was stuffed on a fake punt near midfield , Hurts took matters into his own hands for the winning score. Spotting an opening up the middle, he took off on a 15yard TD run with 1:04 remaining .
“All year, I’ve kind of been waiting on my opportunity,” Hurts said. “My opportunity came today. I worked so hard this week with my teammates. We found a way to get it done today.”
This was a reversal of the storyline from last season’s national title game, when Tagovailoa replaced an ineffective Hurts at the start of the second half with Alabama trailing Georgia 13-0. The replacement threw three touchdown passes, including a 41-yarder in overtime that gave the Tide a stunning 26-23 victory.
Tagovailoa won the starting job in preseason practice and performed brilliantly during the regular season, throwing 36 touchdown passes with only two interceptions.
The SEC title game took a different path. Georgia put quite a beating on Tagovailoa, who was picked off twice, spent much of his spare time in the medical tent and was largely ineffective as the Bulldogs built a pair of two-touchdown leads.
This time, it was Hurts who bailed out the Crimson Tide. When he trotted off the field after the winning TD, Tagovailoa was one of the first ones to greet him on the sideline . Afterward, they stood side-by-side on the podium in the middle of the field while Alabama received its SEC championship trophy.
Alabama coach Nick Saban summed it up best: “Wow.”
Now, the Crimson Tide is headed back to the College Football Playoff, looking for its second straight national title and the sixth of the last decade under Saban.
“I know at Alabama, there’s always an opportunity to win,” Hurts said. “We worked so hard in the offseason — blood, sweat and tears together. Today, we found a way to get it done. I’m so happy, so happy for ever ybody.”
Georgia can make a pretty good case for the playoff, too, but the Bulldogs will likely get left out. Big 12 champion Oklahoma avenged its only loss by beating Texas, and No. 6 Ohio State still had a chance to make its case in the Big Ten title game.
This was another galling loss for Saban’s former assistant, Kirby Smart. He’s quickly built Georgia into a national powerhouse, but he keeps coming up short against his ex-boss.
For the second time in about 11 months, the Bulldogs squandered a doubledigit lead to the Crimson Tide. While this one didn’t end with the suddenness of that national title game, it hurt just as bad. They had had another chance to knock off the team that had been No. 1 in the polls all season, a team that has built perhaps the greatest rivalry in college football history. Again, it slipped away. “With a team like that, you’ve got to be able to put them way because they keep hanging on,” Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta said. “They’ve been doing it for a lot of years.”
Georgia’s Jake Fromm threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns, while Tagovailoa was only 10 of 25 for 164 yards. The Alabama quarterback had a pair of interceptions, matching his total for the entire season, though he did spark the comeback with a 51-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle late in the third quarter, cutting Georgia’s lead to 28-21.
Hurts took it from there.
THE TAKEAWAY Alabama: This was the sort of challenge that should serve the Crimson Tide well in the College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide had not been in serious trouble all season, beating everyone by at least 22 points, but they showed plenty of grit when finally challenged by the Bulldogs. Alabama was outgained in total yards
(454-403) and dominated in time of possession (Georgia held the ball for more than
35 minutes), but Saban’s team found a way to do what it does better than anyone: win.
Georgia: The Bulldogs will be kicking themselves for the way they let this one slip away. Twice, on thirdand-short with a chance to extend drives, they failed to conver t. The fake punt was a baffling decision — a direct snap to backup quarterback Justin Fields, who looked like he wanted to throw, took off running and didn’t come close to picking up the first down. That gave Alabama a short field to work with on its winning drive.
UP NEXT Alabama: The Crimson Tide heads to the College Football Playoff for the fifth year in a row, undoubtedly as the No. 1 seed and the favorite to win another national title. Alabama will be in the semifinals and is expected to play in the Cotton Bowl. The opponent could be Oklahoma, Ohio State or maybe even Georgia. Saban endorsed the Bulldogs for a spot in the playoff, saying “they’re one of the four best teams in the country.”
Georgia: The Bulldogs are hoping to land a playoff spot but will likely have to settle for a trip to the Sugar Bowl as a consolation prize. BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP Oklagoma 39, Texas 27
— Kyler Murray threw for 379 yards Georgia defensive back Richard LeCounte misses the tackle on Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle during the second half of Saturday’s SEC championship game.
and three touchdowns and No. 5 Oklahoma beat No. 9 Texas in the Big 12 championship game, with the Sooners avenging their only loss and making their case for a return to the College Football Playoff.
Murray, the Heisman Trophy-contending dualthreat quarterback, threw two TD passes to Grant Calcaterra. That included an impressive 18-yard score on a third-and-10 play with two minutes left as the Sooners
(12-1, No. 5 CFP) won their seventh consecutive game despite being held to fewer than 40 points for the first time in nine games.
Sam Ehlinger was 23-of36 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.
The Sooners went ahead to stay on Austin Seibert’s third field goal, a 31-yarder with 12:37 left that was good after ricocheting off the top of the left upright to make it
Two plays after Oklahoma’s only turnover, when receiver CeeDee Lamb fumbled inside the 10 after a
54-yard catch-and-run with nine minutes left, the Sooners got points anyway. Cornerback Tre Brown sacked
Ehlinger in the end zone for a safety.
The 114th meeting between the Red River rivals was their first in a championship game — and the first time since 1903 they had played twice in the same season. Every game since
1929 had been played about
20 miles away at the State Fair of Texas, where the Longhorns beat Oklahoma
48-45 eight weeks ago. AAC CHAMPIONSHIP UCF 56, Memphis 41
— Darriel Mack shrugged off two early turnovers to rush for three second-half touchdowns and rally No. 7 UCF past Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
With the red-shirt freshman filling in for injured McKenzie Milton, the Knights (12-0, No. 8 CFP) won their second straight league title and extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 25 games.
Mack also threw for 348 yards and two TDs without an interception.
Greg McCrae ran for
206 yards and a TD for the Knights, who beat the Tigers 62-55 in the 2017 AAC title game and rallied from a
16-point second-half deficit to win 31-30 at Memphis in the regular season.
This time, UCF trailed
38-21 at halftime before scoring touchdowns on five straight possessions in the second half. Darrell Henderson
scored on runs of
62, 12 and 82 yards and also throw a 4-yard TD pass to help Memphis (8-5) build its big halftime lead. But the nation’s second-leading rusher only gained 3 yards on six carries in the second half, finishing with 210 yards on 16 carries.
Iowa State 27, Drake 24
IOWA — David Montgomery ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns and No. 24 Iowa State barely survived a near-upset by non-scholarship FCS school Drake.
Brock Purdy had 153 yards passing and a TD for the Cyclones (8-4), who fought through persistent rain and a sloppy field to win their sixth straight home game, tying a school record.
The Bulldogs (7-4) forced turnovers on back-to-back possessions to open the second half. They turned the second one, a pick of Kyle Kempt’s pass, into a 19-yard TD pass from Grant Kraemer to Devin Cates and a
24-20 lead in the third quarter. Iowa State responded with a 7-yard touchdown reception by Deshaunte Jones to jump back on top, and Spencer Benton and JaQuan Bailey came up with sacks to force Drake punts. Montgomery’s 2-yard run on a third-down-and-1 with
1:26 left sealed it. Kraemer threw for 221 yards and three TDs. Drake outgained Iowa State 279273.