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Monday, December 3, 2012
Film review: Georgia vs. Alabama

By David Ching

ATHENS, Ga. -- Let’s take a look at three key plays from No. 6 Georgia’s 32-28 loss to No. 2 Alabama in the SEC championship game on Saturday.

Dogs pull off fake punt

The score: 0-0

The situation: Georgia faced fourth-and-10 from the Alabama 36 on the first play of the second quarter.

Why it worked: Bulldogs punt team coach John Lilly had been sitting on this play for a few weeks, but it caught Alabama -- awaiting a pooch punt from a Georgia team that hadn’t attempted a fake-punt pass in seven years -- completely off guard.

The breakdown: Arthur Lynch was the lone punt protector for Adam Erickson, only he didn’t protect a punt. He caught the snap at Alabama’s 45 and tossed a wobbly blooper to Sanders Commings, who had lined up on the far right end of the line and run 16 yards in a straight line before catching the pass. Alabama’s Robert Lester drilled Commings just after the reception, but he held onto the ball at the Crimson Tide’s 20.

Lynch said after the game that it was the first pass he had ever thrown in a game at any level, and it might not have been a work of art, but it got the job done and provided an enormous emotional lift after a scoreless first quarter. Georgia scored its first touchdown -- on a 19-yard pass from Aaron Murray to tight end Jay Rome -- two plays later.

What it means: If you want a sign Georgia was playing to win Saturday, this was one of the biggest. Fans and media have regularly criticized Mark Richt for coaching too conservatively throughout his tenure, but the Bulldogs let it all hang out against the defending BCS champs.

Gurley TD in the fourth

The score: Alabama leads 25-21

The situation: Georgia faced second-and-8 at the Alabama 10 with 13:01 to play.

Why it worked: Todd Gurley ran through tackle attempts and plowed into the end zone to cap a 75-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown just after an Eddie Lacy score made it appear as if the Tide might run away with the game.

The breakdown: Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo must have seen a matchup he liked because Georgia changed the play at the line of scrimmage. The Bulldogs checked into a run to Gurley out of the pistol formation, from which he bolted into a crease between center David Andrews and right guard Chris Burnette.

Left guard Dallas Lee pulled on the play and knocked Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest out of the play while Burnette took out defensive tackle Jeoffrey Pagan. Right tackle John Theus got away with holding linebacker C.J. Mosley just before he made contact with Gurley at the 7.

Gurley bounced off the hit, however, kept driving toward the end zone and bowled over cornerback Geno Smith at the goal line to help Georgia go ahead 28-25.

What it means: Alabama was on a 15-0 run when it seemed to be overpowering the Bulldogs late in the third quarter. The Tide took the lead by running seven times for 74 yards against a weary Georgia defense and scoring on Lacy’s 1-yard dive. But Georgia then showed resolve that seemed to be lacking in similar situations in past seasons, immediately driving back downfield -- sparked by a 45-yard pass from Murray to Tavarres King -- to reclaim the lead in just five plays.

Yeldon’s conversion

The score: Georgia leads 28-25

The situation: Alabama had the ball at the 50 and faced third-and-5 with 4:01 left in the game.

Why it worked: H-back Kelly Johnson tied up Jarvis Jones with a key block and freshman tailback T.J. Yeldon was able to escape from Georgia safety Shawn Williams for a key first down that kept Alabama’s game-winning touchdown drive alive.

The breakdown: Alabama tried to run off right guard, behind pulling left guard Chance Warmack, but Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson met Warmack in the hole and forced Yeldon to bounce the run outside. Johnson occupied outside linebacker Jones enough to take him out of the play, but Williams came up in run support and initiated contact with Yeldon at the line of scrimmage.

However, in trying to cut off the corner, the senior safety allowed Yeldon to cut inside and was unable to grasp the tailback around the shoulders. Yeldon lunged ahead 5 yards with Williams trying to drag him down, but the Georgia defender was unable to prevent him from nudging the ball past the first-down marker at the 45. On the very next play, Alabama used a play-action fake to Yeldon to catch Bulldogs cornerback Damian Swann off guard and quarterback AJ McCarron hit an open Amari Cooper for the game-winning touchdown pass.

What it means: Of the many plays they’d like to take back, this might have been one of the most painful for Georgia’s defensive players. They had victory within their grasp and were in position to stop Alabama short of a first down, but Yeldon slipped away and kept the drive alive. The next play was proof of what can happen when defenses don’t seize those opportunities.