INDIANAPOLIS — Alabama quarterback Bryce Young felt the heat from Georgia’s dominant front seven throughout the CFP Championship Game on Monday night, and then he took the blame in the aftermath.
Young, the Heisman Trophy winner and SEC Offensive Player of the Year, was 35-of-57 passing for 369 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions, his final pick returned 79 yards by Kelee Ringo for the Bulldogs’ game-clinching touchdown.
“It’s my job to put the ball into the end zone, and I wasn’t able to do that tonight,” Young said. “We had a lot of opportunities, moved the ball relatively well. We did some stuff well. We didn’t execute. And at the end of the day, that’s on me. For us not finishing drives like we want to, it’s just not executing.”
Alabama out-gained Georgia 399-364, but the Bulldogs’ defense stiffened most every time the Tide reach the Red Zone.
The Tide drove to the Georgia 30-yard line or closer six times, but it came away with only one touchdown, settling four for field goals in the 33-18 loss at Lucas Oil Stadium in the national championship game.
Young gave the Bulldogs’ defense credit for making things difficult on him, as he was sacked four times and held to 9-of-20 on third-down conversions..
“They switched some things up, (and) we knew that we might get some different looks,” Young said. “Some looks took me a little bit just to get down. The O line battled and fought all day, all season, and some of that stuff may look like, may look interior, may look like scheme, but there’s a lot I have to do with that.
“I think that they switched up some stuff, had different tendencies. And I have to process that faster, just make the right play for the team better than I did tonight. So they changed some things, and I wasn’t able to execute.”
Young set SEC Championship Game records some five weeks before, passing for 421 yards and rushing for 40 more against this same Bulldogs’ defense.
But this was not exactly the same Alabama offense.
The Tide lost go-to receiver John Metchie, who led the team with 96 catches, in the second quarter of the first meeting.
On Monday night, explosive wideout Jameson Williams — who led Alabama with 1,572 receiving yards — went down with a knee injury at the 12:28 mark of the second quarter after reeling in his fourth catch of the night, this one for 40 yards.
“Losing someone like J-Mo is tough, but that’s been a theme for us is overcoming adversity, (and) a lot of guys stepped up in a big moment,” Young said. “I’m tremendously proud of how we played offensively, how people stepped up. I’m tremendously proud of how everyone around me played. And it’s on me to perform better.”
Saban pointed out that losing two 1,000-yard receivers factored in.
“I think anytime you lose players like (Williams) and John Metchie it certainly has some impact on how you can perform offensively, and Bryce is a great quarterback, he had a great year,” Saban said.
“But at the same time, when you play quarterback, players have to play well around you, and we had some guys step up tonight and get some opportunities and they did some good things.”
But the Tide simply didn’t have enough.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart indicated it took his defense’s best effort.
“I think they have the best player in college football in Bryce Young,” Smart said, “and I saw it first hand, on the field, in the SEC Championship game.”