Georgia football 5 takeaways from 35-28 loss to Alabama in SEC Championship Game
ATLANTA — Georgia football displayed focus and buy-in all season, carrying a quiet confidence throughout.
The unspoken message was the Bulldogs were going to take care of business against Alabama when they got the chance, surely no way they’d lose a halftime lead to Alabama two years in a row.
Georgia was up 13-0 at halftime in the College Football Playoff Championship Game last January, only to see Tua Tagovailoa come off the bench and rally the Tide to a 26-23 overtime win.
The Bulldogs lost a two touchdown lead again, another unlikely scenario slowly unfolding before our eyes at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the CBS network audience.
Alabama beat Georgia 35-28 in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday when its backup quarterback, Jalen Hurts, rallied the Tide from 28-21 down after starter Tagovailoa went out with 11:15 remaining.
Here are 5 takeaways
Nick Saban, Coach of the Year
Alabama completed the most dominant SEC regular season in history, winning by a record average margin of 35.2 points, in addition to setting a modern era record with 12 straight wins of 20 or more points.
But the fact Saban was able to adjust and keep his team focused after it trailed Georgia by two touchdowns for most of the game on Saturday showed how truly masterful Saban has been in 2018.
Kirby tried too hard
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart did an incredible job keeping his team bought in and focused through all the distractions and potential team-splitting issues this season.
Consider the Bulldogs have led or been tied with Alabama for nearly 119 of the 120 minutes of regulation football the teams have played the past two years — only to lose both games.
But these 2018 Bulldogs managed to blend the No. 1-ranked recruiting class into a team of veterans and stay keep in harmony with a potential quarterback debate at hand the first half of the season.
That said, Smart’s decision to try a fake punt on a fourth-and-11 at the 50 with 3 minutes left is one he’ll always want back, particularly when he reconsiders how well his defense had played and the long odds Hurt would have faced needing to drive the team the length of the field.
Do you trust that defense — or a true freshman quarterback to make a play on fourth-and-11 against Alabama?
The fake punt was a case of over-coaching, just as Smart did in the LSU game when he dialed up a fake field goal on the second offensive drive. Smart tells his players to trust the process and in hindsight he should have done the same, rather than roll the dice.
Smart is a young coach, he’ll learn from it, and he’ll be around for a very long time.
Jake Fromm robbed
Georgia sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm deserved better, many making a strong case he should have been the SEC Championship Game MVP even though the Bulldogs lost the game.
Fromm was 25-of-39 passing for 301 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, getting sacked just once. He was also 5-of-12 for 54 yards and a TD on third downs, and he was 2-of-2 passing for 14 yards on fourth down.
At one point, Fromm completed an SEC Championship Game record 10 straight passes, and that was after two consecutive dropped passes.
Fromm is so poised he was able to overcome the staff forcing Justin Fields into play, not allowing it to disrupt his rhythm and timing with the receivers and the flow of the game.
The Georgia secondary appears to be the best in the country and was a key to the Bulldogs ability to render Tagovailoa relatively ineffective.
Cornerbacks Deandre Baker and Eric Stokes were sticky in coverage, and safeties J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte handled their assignments without a bust throughout most all of the game.
The Alabama receivers had been blowing past defenses at a record pace, but Georgia proved to have the speed and skill to match up with them on down field routes. The Bulldogs also tackled well in the secondary, for the most part.
It will hurt for Georgia to lose Baker, but both safeties figure to be back, and Stokes looks like a preseason All-SEC pick and cornerback Tyson Campbell should grow into an All-SEC pick next season.
Georgia tailback D’Andre Swift is arguably the most explosive running back at this point of the season, proving it once again against Alabama by making something out of nothing on more than one occasion.
Swift had a career-high six catches for 63 yards and a touchdown along with 13 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Swift went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season, and if anything, he should have gotten even more touches in a game of this magnitude with his home run speed.
Georgia is one of the four best teams in the nation, but the guess here is that the CFB Playoff Committee doesn’t put the Bulldogs into the four-team field.
Remember when this same committee had Michigan ranked ahead of Georgia because the Wolverines had a supposedly better defense?
That proved two things: One, this CFB Committee has a hard time seeing past statistics, and Two, there hasn’t been a ton of respect for Georgia in that room.
If the Bulldogs are left out of the playoffs they’ll play in the Sugar Bowl, likely against Texas, in a game that will carry national recruiting implications and set the stage for what figures to be another championship run for Georgia next season.
Georgia football SEC Championship Game