In the wake of the epic SEC Championship matchup between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs, armchair coaches will break down film, analyzing every play and questioning every call by both Bulldogs coach Mark Richt and Tide coach Nick Saban.
With the exception of the final play of the game, in which a tipped pass landed in the hands of Bulldog receiver Chris Conley – a pass that was being thrown to another receiver – no single play determined the outcome of this incredible game. Instead it was the result of numerous decisions made in the heat of battle by both teams.
Some of the key decisions by the Alabama coaching staff in this win:
Chris Black did not play.
There was much speculation that freshman wide receiver Chris Black would lose his redshirt and take the field against Georgia. The loss of Kenny Bell to a broken leg against Auburn left the Crimson Tide thin at that position.
Black is a speedster that would have given Alabama another deep threat to go along with freshman superstar Amari Cooper. In the end, the decision not to play Black gives him another year of eligibility, and another year to grow and improve in the Alabama system.
Going for two.
A poor decision earlier in the game all but forced this one. Nick Saban chose to keep his timeouts in his pocket with the clock winding down, and after failing to pick up a key first down had to settle for a field goal to take a 10-7 halftime lead. With Georgia up 21-10 in the third quarter, T.J. Yeldon scored to make it 16-21. The decision was made to go for two, which cut the Bulldog lead to three.
“I always say go for it late in the third quarter, or the fourth quarter,” Saban said of the decision. “It got the numbers in our favor.”
The decision to go for two at that point made a difference in the waning seconds of the game. Had Alabama kicked the extra point – and if everything else had played out as it did – Georgia would have been able to kick a field goal to send the game into overtime. Instead, the Bulldogs were forced to go for a touchdown.
Sending Jesse Williams back into the game.
When defensive star Jesse Williams went to the ground in a heap, the air went out of the Alabama faithful. A key part of the Tide defense, Williams was a huge loss. Though it seemed he was lost for the game, Alabama trainers worked on getting the swelling in the joint minimized, and put a brace on the leg before allowing him to return to action.
Williams made the most of his return, going in to block for Eddie Lacy on a one-yard touchdown run that gave the Tide its first lead since 10-7. The Australian sensation later made a key stop when Georgia was grinding for yardage.
“When I realized it wasn’t as serious as I thought, I knew I could push through the pain,” he said. “I pushed with everything I had.”
Switching to a run-heavy offense.
The biggest decision of the game was not a single call, but a shift in philosophy. Every Alabama fan in attendance and watching at home implored the Tide coaching staff to run the ball in the first half. Instead, Alabama ran much of its first half offense out of the shotgun, and had little success. Tide quarterback AJ McCarron had a fumble early when pass protection broke down, and later threw an interception in the Georgia end zone that had fans seeing flashbacks of the Texas A&M game.
In the second half Alabama went back to its bread-and-butter, to the delight of the fans. Putting the offense in the hands of running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, Alabama wore down the Georgia defense, racking up 350 yards rushing in the process. The commitment to run the ball also led to the success of the play-action pass to Amari Cooper, a 45-yard toss that proved to be the final score of the game.