Young, Alabama gash Georgia in SEC Championship
ATLANTA, GA. — Top-ranked Georgia has a lot to learn from its performance against No. 3 Alabama in the SEC Championship game, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The Crimson Tide racked up 536 yards of total offense on the nation’s top-scoring defense en route to a 41-24 victory over the Bulldogs.
Alabama was led by quarterback Bryce Young, who solidified his name into the Heisman Trophy conversation with a dominant performance. The redshirt freshman pounded the Bulldogs’ secondary, completing 25-of-44 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns. Young also had three rushes for 40 yards with a score.
Head coach Kirby Smart acknowledged that Georgia didn’t get enough pressure on Young, who consistently gashed its defense by getting the ball in the hands of his primary playmakers.
“Well, I think the quarterback had a lot to do with that,” Smart said. “Obviously, they have two exceptional skill players outside and a really talented tight end. But I would say it was the quarterback buying time. We called a lot of the same calls we called the other games. We didn't get home or finish on the quarterback, and he was elite at getting the ball to the playmakers. He knew where to go with the ball. He keeps his eyes downfield with the rush, where a lot of quarterbacks wouldn't do that. They'd look at the rush and start trying to run away from the rush, and we could run them down. But, tonight he did a tremendous job at that. He was mobile and made a lot of plays.”
Young had been sacked 33 times coming into this contest, which is tied for second-most in the SEC with Max Johnson from LSU behind Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker (34). The Bulldogs didn’t manage to take down Young, despite getting close a couple of times. It was really a testament to Alabama’s offensive line, who stood tall against a stout Georgia front seven that had a conference second-best 41 sacks entering Saturday’s matchup.
Junior inside linebacker Nakobe Dean said he knew coming in that Young was a talented player.
“He's a great player and we knew that coming in,” Dean said. “He's very elusive and he runs their offense well. He did a good job of keeping his eyes downfield and avoiding our pass rush. I feel like the pass rush and the recoveries have got to work hand in hand. Him being able to keep his eyes downfield and make certain throws really helps them.”
Needless to say, it wasn’t all Young, despite him making the throws.
Crimson Tide wide receiver Jameson Williams consistently torched the Bulldogs’ secondary as he hauled in a team-high seven receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns. John Metchie III managed to catch six passes for 97 yards and a score, while Slade Bolden had five catches to total 54 yards. It was a high-powered offense that Georgia hadn’t faced all season.
Dean pointed out that the practices leading up to the SEC Championship included preparing for a high-powered passing attack.
“Well, yeah, of course, we prepared like every other week,” Dean said. “We took it in stride, and tried to trust the coaches, but also trust the plan and everything. They’ve got great players, and they made some great plays. We just didn't play our best game today.”
Smart reiterated what Dean said.
“We didn't work on running much because we didn't feel like with the backs it was coming,” Smart said. “It was going to be a passing game and I felt like we'd get a lot of empty, which we did. I really felt good about the things we worked on, but our ability to execute them. We had two or three third downs where we have a bust and cut a guy loose, and we haven't done that all year.
When you're in man coverage and you cut a guy loose, that's not typical of us. Now, they may beat you. They beat us on several man coverages, and I can take that, but when you cut a guy loose, you can't do that. When you get these guys in third down, you've got to get off the field.”
Despite the loss in the SEC Championship, Georgia still has a strong chance to make the College Football Playoff. The top four teams will be announced on Sunday, Dec. 5 at noon on ESPN.