EditorsNote: Minor fixes
Jalen Hurts came off the bench early in the fourth quarter to replace injured starter Tua Tagovailoa, and No. 1 Alabama rallied for a 35-28 win over No. 4 Georgia on Saturday evening in a thrilling SEC championship game in Atlanta.
Hurts evened the score at 28 with 5:19 to go in the fourth quarter when he rolled right and fired a dart to Jerry Jeudy for a 10-yard touchdown. Next, Hurts put Alabama on top with at 15-yard quarterback draw into the end zone with 1:04 remaining.
Alabama (13-0) all but assured the top spot in the College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide locked up their 27th SEC title and fifth since 2012.
The comeback stunned Georgia (11-2), which led 28-14 late in the third quarter before giving up 21 unanswered points to its longtime rival. The Bulldogs had a chance to force overtime in the final minute, but Jake Fromm’s final heave into the end zone fell incomplete as time expired.
Fromm finished 25 of 39 for 301 yards and three touchdowns but again suffered a heartbreaking loss to Alabama, which overcame a 13-0 deficit behind then-backup Tagovailoa in January to top Georgia in last season’s national title game.
The Crimson Tide trailed 28-21 on Saturday when Tagovailoa went down with a right ankle injury. He stood in the pocket and looked to pass when offensive lineman Jonah Williams backed into his leg. Tagovailoa finished the game 10 of 25 for 164 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
In came Hurts, the former Crimson Tide starter who was benched in favor of Tagovailoa in the second half of last season’s championship game. Many observers wondered whether Hurts would transfer or change positions after losing his starting job, but he maintained a positive attitude throughout this season as Tagovailoa developed into a leading Heisman Trophy contender.
Hurts’ patience paid off as he completed seven of nine passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. He also ran five times for 28 yards and the game-winning score.
Josh Jacobs finished with two rushing touchdowns for Alabama, including a controversial play in which referees determined that he recovered his own fumble in the end zone. Jaylen Waddle had a touchdown reception along with Jeudy.
Isaac Nauta, Riley Ridley and D’Andre Swift each hauled in a touchdown for Georgia. Swift also scored on the ground.
—Field Level Media