Dave Martin/Associated Press
Dave Martin/Associated Press
Alabama is heading back to the national championship game – by a mere 4 yards.
AJ McCarron threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper with 3 minutes, 15 seconds remaining, and the No. 2 Crimson Tide barely held off No. 3 Georgia 32-28 in a Southeastern Conference title game for the ages Saturday in Atlanta.
After an apparent game-clinching interception by Alabama was overturned on a video review, Georgia’s Aaron Murray completed a 15-yard pass to Arthur Lynch, a 23-yarder to Tavarres King and a 26-yarder to Lynch, who was hauled down at the Alabama 8 as the clock continued to run.
Georgia was out of timeouts.
Instead of spiking the ball and gathering themselves, the Bulldogs snapped the ball with 9 seconds to go. Murray attempted a pass into the corner, but it was deflected at the line, winding up in the arms of Chris Conley out in the right flats.
Surprised to get the ball, he slipped down at the 4.
Georgia couldn’t get off another play. Alabama celebrated as confetti fell from the Georgia Dome roof. The Bulldogs collapsed on the field, stunned they had come so close to knocking off the team that has won two of the last three national titles.
The Tide will get a chance to make it three out of four when they face top-ranked Notre Dame for the BCS crown Jan. 7 in Miami.
“I’m ready to have a heart attack here,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
For the Bulldogs (11-2), the consolation prize likely will be a spot in the Capital One Bowl, though they certainly looked like a team fully deserving of a BCS bid. Georgia coach Mark Richt said his team had the play it wanted at the end, but Alabama ruined it by getting a hand on the ball.
“I told the guys I was disappointed, but I’m not disappointed in them,” Richt said. “They’re warriors. We had a chance at the end. We just didn’t get it done.”
In a back-and-forth second half that looked nothing like a game in the defensive-minded SEC, the Crimson Tide trailed 21-10 after Alec Ogletree returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Alabama rallied behind a punishing run game, finishing with 350 yards on the ground, an SEC championship game record. Eddie Lacy rumbled for 181 yards on 20 carries, including two touchdowns. Freshman T.J. Yeldon added 153 yards on 25 carries, also scoring a touchdown.
But the Tide won it through the air.
With Georgia stacking the line, McCarron fooled the Bulldogs with play action and delivered a perfectly thrown pass to Cooper, who beat Damian Swann in single coverage.
Georgia played like a champion, too.
The Bulldogs punted the ball back to Alabama with 2:25 left, relying on their defense to finally stop the Tide. Georgia used up its final two timeouts, forced a punt and got the ball back at its 15 with 1:16 remaining.
Alabama broke into a celebration when a pass down the middle for Conley was deflected, and Dee Milliner appeared to make a diving interception. But the replay showed the ball hit the ground, so Murray and the Georgia offense trotted back on the field for their last gasp.
And what a gasp it was.
Just not quite enough.
Todd Gurley led Georgia with 122 yards rushing, including a couple of touchdowns. Murray finished 18 of 33 with 265 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
McCarron was 12 of 21 for 162 yards with an interception.
No. 7 Kansas State 42, No. 23 Texas 24
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Collin Klein threw a touchdown pass and ran for two scores and No. 7 Kansas State beat No. 23 Texas for its third conference title in 117 years and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
The Wildcats never had played for a conference championship in their last game at home and had never had a player end the regular season in such close contention for the Heisman Trophy as Klein.
In front of their sixth sellout in seven home games, the Wildcats (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) tied their team record for victories in a season and matched Oklahoma’s Big 12 record.
No. 12 Oklahoma 24, TCU 17
FORT WORTH, Texas – Landry Jones threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns, Damien Williams ran untouched 66 yards for a score, and 12th-ranked Oklahoma held on to win at TCU and clinch at least a share of the Big 12 title.
TCU’s fourth-down pass to the goal line in the final minute was well-defended and fell incomplete.
The Sooners (10-2, 8-1 Big 12) won their eighth consecutive Big 12 game since a late-September loss to Kansas State.
Oklahoma, whose only other loss was to No. 1 Notre Dame, is in good shape for the final at-large BCS berth even after K-State’s win.
TCU (7-5, 4-5) lost all four of its Big 12 games at home despite winning four on the road.
No. 12 Florida State 21, Georgia Tech 15
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – James Wilder Jr. ran for two touchdowns as No. 13 Florida State held off Georgia Tech to capture its first Atlantic Coast Conference championship since 2005 and earn a trip to the Orange Bowl.
It was Florida State’s 13th ACC title.
The heavily favored Seminoles (11-2) built a 21-6 lead at the half and held on to win, helping to erase some of the sting from last week’s 37-26 loss to their bitter rival, No. 4 Florida.
Wisconsin 70, No. 14 Nebraska 31
INDIANAPOLIS – Montee Ball ran for 201 yards and three touchdowns, and Wisconsin rushed for the 539 yards to rout No. 14 Nebraska in the Big Ten title game.
The Badgers (8-5, 4-4 Big Ten), the first team to reach the Rose Bowl with five losses, are the first Big Ten team to make it in three consecutive years since Michigan in the late 1970s.
They also tied Texas’ record for most points in a conference championship game.
No. 16 Oregon State 77, Nicholls State 3
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Storm Woods ran for two touchdowns in the first quarter, and No. 16 Oregon State put up its highest point total ever, routing Nicholls State in a game postponed by Hurricane Isaac.
The Beavers surpassed their 76-0 win over Willamette in 1931.
Oregon State (9-3) started playing its substitutes against the lower-division Colonels in taking a 35-0 halftime lead. Markus Wheaton caught 12 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown and sat out the second half.
Officials from both schools decided to put off the Sept. 1 opener when the storm bore down on the Colonels’ campus in Thibodeaux, La.
The Beavers had a complete turnaround from their 3-9 finish last year. Oregon State possibly is headed to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 27, and representatives from that bowl and the Alamo Bowl were in attendance. The team will learn its destination today.
Baylor 41, No. 24 Oklahoma State 34
WACO, Texas – Lache Seastrunk rushed for 178 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, and Nick Florence passed for 296 yards as Baylor upset No. 24 Oklahoma State.
Baylor (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) has won at least seven games in three consecutive seasons – the first time the Bears have done that since 1949-51.
Seastrunk’s long scoring run gave Baylor a 41-27 lead with 5:11 left in the game.
The sophomore burst through the middle and slowed down about 25 yards shy of the end zone. Seastrunk stumbled into the end zone and was down on the turf before limping off with an apparent right leg injury.
J.W. Walsh rushed for two touchdowns for Oklahoma State (7-5, 5-4).
No. 25 Boise State 27, Nevada 21
RENO, Nev. – Joe Southwick threw two touchdown passes to lead No. 25 Boise State to victory over Nevada, earning the Broncos a share of the Mountain West Conference title and ensuring their nation’s best seventh consecutive 10-win season.
D.J. Harper ran for 130 yards for Boise State (10-2, 7-1), and the Broncos’ defense put the clamps on a Nevada offense that was averaging 38 points per game.
Stefphon Jefferson ran for 139 yards and a touchdown, and Cody Fajardo passed for 203 yards and ran for 81 for the Wolf Pack (7-5, 4-4), who lost four of their last five games after starting the season 6-1.
Matt Miller caught seven passes for 127 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown from Southwick that put Boise ahead late 24-7.
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