Alabama Football: Winners and Losers from the 2012 SEC Championship
Well it certainly wasn't easy. The 2012 SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia certainly didn't disappoint.
In a game that had five lead changes, Alabama held on as time expired on the Dawgs and went home with a 32-28 win, the SEC crown and a date with Notre Dame in January's BCS title game.
It was a game that included hits and misses by both teams. At times execution was flawless while at others it was nonexistent.
Nonetheless, the Crimson Tide will have a chance to win its third BCS title in the last four seasons and bring home the seventh consecutive national title for the SEC.
Here are your winners and losers from the BCS title game.
Winner: Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon
Georgia entered this game with a defensive squad that was on a roll. The Bulldogs were expecting to harness in the Alabama running game and force AJ McCarron to beat them with his arm.
Lacy and Yeldon put that plan to rest in the second quarter as the duo combined for over 150 yards in the first half.
When the dust had settled, Lacy had carried the ball 20 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns, earning the MVP trophy. Yeldon was right behind him with another 154 yards and a score on 25 attempts.
Twelve times over the course of the game, the dynamic duo ran for over 10 yards on a single carry.
Coming into the game, Georgia had allowed an opponent to gain more than 30 yards on a single carry just four times. Saturday Lacy and Yeldon did it three times.
The pair was relentless, breaking tackles, spinning, changing direction and flat-out running through Georgia defenders with regularity. It got so easy for them that Alabama all but abandoned the pass late in the game.
By the end of the night, Alabama had run the ball 51 times for 350 yards, just one yard under what Georgia allows in total offense per game.
Winner: The Offensive Line
It is quite unusual to run for 350 yards in a single game. To do so against a team as good as Georgia is even more unlikely.
No matter who is carrying the ball, such a feat is impossible without quality blocking up front. Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack, along with Cyrus Kouandjio, Anthony Steen and D.J. Fluker combined to beat the Bulldogs right out of their shoes Saturday night.
Lacy and Yeldon rolled through king-sized holes all night as the 'Bama offensive line refused to be denied.
The Georgia pass rush was effective, sacking McCarron three times, but Alabama won this game in the trenches.
When the Tide was running the ball, the Georgia defensive line had virtually no chance as it was tossed around like rag dolls throughout the game.
Loser: Quinton Dial
Late in the first half, as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was returning a huge interception that would set up the only successful field goal of the night, Quinton Dial was levelling Aaron Murray with a blatantly late hit.
Murray never saw it coming. Just as he sensed danger and looked up, Dial planted him with a jaw-rattling hit right in front of an official.
Amazingly a flag was not thrown on the play, but Dial clearly hit Murray seconds after the pass had been made.
Dial was fortunate not to get tossed from the game, and it is not out of the question that the SEC could penalize him for the BCS title game if deemed necessary.
Most importantly, Alabama has not made its reputation on playing dirty. Sure, it could have been a momentary lapse of common sense. Still, a hit like that had no place in this game.
Dial, a senior, should have known better.
Winner: Amari Cooper
When Kenny Bell went down with a broken leg last week against Auburn, the Tide was left without its greatest deep threat for the SEC title game.
Knowing that Alabama must prove to Georgia that it was willing to take it deep, McCarron looked to freshman sensation Amari Cooper.
Cooper out jumped and reached right over a Georgia defender and pulled down a 44-yard reception. While the Tide did not go on to score on the drive, it let the Dawgs know that Alabama could...and would throw it deep.
In the fourth quarter with the game on the line and the Tide down by three, McCarron connected again with Cooper on a long 45-yard touchdown pass that proved to be the game winning score.
Cooper finished with eight receptions for 128 yards and the touchdown.
Loser: Time Management
Late in the first quarter with the Tide nearing field-goal range Alabama attempted a fake punt on 4th-and-1 by snapping directly to Vinnie Sunseri. The play would have worked and continued the drive if it were not for a delay of game penalty.
This forced the Tide to punt and ended an opportunity for Alabama to get on the board first.
Even worse, as the first half clock was winding down, Alabama oddly chose not to use its timeouts.
By the time McCarron scrambled for a 22-yard gain to the Georgia five and Alabama finally called one, there were only five seconds on the clock and the Tide had to settle for a field goal.
This was all too familiar of a decision as the refusal to call a timeout in the waning seconds of the Texas A&M game may have cost the Tide its only loss of the season.
This time it almost cost them the season.
Winner: Time of Possession
In many ways, Georgia was the better team on Saturday. It moved the ball with relative ease, tallying a total of 394 yards on the night as the Tide allowed 28 points for the first time in over two years.
Where the Tide won this game, though, was by wearing the Georgia defense down.
Alabama held the ball for over 37 minutes over the course of the game, and by the time it was over, the Georgia defense was battered and beaten as if it had been in a 15-round heavyweight fight with one arm tied around its back.
Even when Georgia went ahead 28-25, the Tide continued to run and run with little concern for the clock as it knew that there was little left in the Dawgs' defensive tank.
Loser: Anyone Who Missed This Game
Maybe it was because of a wedding or a Christmas party. Maybe it was just an overdue date night with the wife.
Somebody somewhere missed what was one of the best college football games in recent memory.
This game was a pier six brawl for over three hours. It included blocked punts, fake punts, long touchdown passes, monster runs and bone-breaking hits that were heard throughout the southeastern United States.
Every time it seemed that Georgia was in control, the Tide answered. Just when we thought Alabama had it wrapped up, the Dawgs fought back.
For anyone that has any interest at all in big-time college football, this was a can't-miss game. It was appointment television at its best.
Again somebody missed it. And that somebody is going to regret it for a long long time.
Games this good on a stage this grand do not often live up to this much hype. This one did.