Jalen Hurts Emerges From Ashes To Save Alabama

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ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 01: Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs during the 2018 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

For most of the season, the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide looked dominant and unbeatable. This was the case going into the 2018 SEC Championship against the fourth ranked Georgia Bulldogs. The Tide knew that this would be their toughest task all season. Alabama looked helpless for most of the game against Georgia.

The Tide were out-coached, out-hustled, out-focused, outsmarted, and outplayed. When all seemed lost for the Tide, an unlikely and almost forgotten hero emerged and brought the Tide to their 27th SEC Championship. Quarterback Jalen Hurts emerged from the ashes to save Alabama in the 2018 SEC Championship, leading them to a 35-28 win over Georgia.

Georgia Mismatched Alabama For Much Of The Game

After a three-and-out from Georgia’s offense in their first drive, the Bulldogs took control of the game. The Bulldogs studied the offensive gameplan of the Tide’s explosive offense so efficiently, they were able to pick off Heisman Trophy frontrunner, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the red zone. Almost every single play that the Bulldogs ran on offense was highly efficient against Alabama’s tenacious defense.

Georgia was able to find the smallest weaknesses on Alabama’s defense, particularly in the linebacker corps. Whenever Alabama sent Christian Miller or Anfernee Jennings on an outside pass rush, the Bulldogs ran towards the outside zone. Georgia’s offense bullied inside linebacker Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses in the running game and passing game.

Georgia took the lead in the beginning of the first quarter for 3:12 minutes until Alabama tied in the next drive. The Bulldogs then took control of the final 7:31 minutes of the second quarter and held the lead for the next 35:24 minutes over Alabama. Georgia focused on exploiting weaknesses on defense and offense of Alabama during the entire game.

Alabama couldn’t stop running back D’Andre Swift, who accounted for 138 total yards on 22 total touches and two touchdowns. Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm’s main objective was to play calm against this Tide defense that excels in the pass rush. Fromm passed for 301 yards and three touchdowns on 25 completions (out of 39 attempts). His passes were very efficient as he created room for his receivers and observed easy mismatches.

Tide Offense Had Their Worst Performance Of The Season

One of the most surprising aspects of the game wasn’t how well the Bulldogs offense played. It was how inconsistent the Tide’s offense was in almost every aspect of the game. Tagovailoa didn’t need to put up huge numbers to beat the Bulldogs. Alabama, however, couldn’t find a rhythm of collective plays to continue drives, protect the ball, or find plays that work.

Throughout the game, the playcalling by offensive coordinator Mike Locksley was atrocious as Georgia completely shut down the explosive Tide offense. Alabama tried to push for too much in the passing game, but multiple drops forced the offense to slow down. There were also many situations where Locksley overlooked the running game in favor of the passing game.

What Locksley didn’t account for was the constant pass rush of Georgia’s defense. Although the Bulldogs defense accounted for only two sacks throughout the game, multiple Georgia defenders were constantly in the backfield. The intense and consistent pass rush forced Tagovailoa to throw the ball prematurely while he took multiple hits. Tagovailoa had his worst game of the season by accounting for 164 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions on 10 completions (out of 25 attempts).

The Tide’s offensive line couldn’t protect Tagovailoa through any measure of a drive as he suffered through two separate ankle injuries. This game against Georgia seriously puts Tagovailoa’s Heisman Trophy case in danger. The running game ultimately suffered as the offense ran for a total of 157 yards on 29 rushes.

Backup Quarterback Jalen Hurts Comes In And Beats Georgia

No one for Alabama has had a more interesting career than quarterback Jalen Hurts in three years with the Tide. Hurts started as a freshman accounted for a 26-2 record as the starting quarterback. He brought Alabama to two National Championship appearances before being benched for Tagovailoa in the second half of the Championship win against Georgia last January. Instead of transferring after failing to take back the starting position like Kelly Bryant, Hurts stayed and supported his team. After Tagovailoa was injured, Hurts entered the game, once again becoming the star for Alabama. Hurts came in just over  11 minutes remaining in the game and the Tide trailing 28-21. He remained calm under pressure from the pass rush of the defense and continued drives with his arm and legs.

On a third and goal, instead of the predictable run from the scramble, Hurts tossed a 10-yard touchdown dart to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to tie it up 28-28. After a turnover on downs from Georgia’s offense, Hurts and Alabama’s offense realized that they must score in three minutes and four seconds. It only took five plays, two minutes, and 52 yards (51 total yards from Hurts) to get the Tide their first lead over Georgia. This included a 19-yard middle pass to tight end Irv Smith Jr., a 16-yard right field pass to freshman wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, and a 15-yard scramble run for a touchdown.

The Bulldogs defense was not ready for the calm, consistent play making ability of the dual-threat backup quarterback, Hurts. This is similar to when Georgia wasn’t prepared for the explosive play making ability of Tagovailoa in the second half of the National Championship game.

Alabama Will Appear In Their 5th Straight College Football Playoff

For the first time this season, the Crimson Tide really had to fight hard for what they wanted. All season long, it was the absolute dominance that gave Alabama their SEC Championship game appearance. In this game, Alabama relied on the mentality that got them their winning attitude in the first place. Alabama now has the largest comeback in an SEC title game by being down 14-points at one point.

This win over the Georgia Bulldogs gives the program their 27th SEC Conference title and their 8th from the SEC Championship game. Alabama (13-0) will appear in the fifth College Football Playoffs as the top seeded team. They are the only team in college football to appear in all five of the final College Football Playoffs. The two playoff semifinal games will take place on December 29th.

Main Photo Credit:

File Photo: ATLANTA, GA – DECEMBER 01: Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide. 2018 SEC Championship Game. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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