No. 8 Alabama tops No. 1 Bulldogs for SEC title
ATLANTA — A week after setting the record for the longest winning streak in conference history with its 29th straight victory, the top-ranked Georgia football team’s incredible run of success came to an end in the SEC Championship Game.
Facing No. 8 Alabama for the conference title and a probable spot in the College Football Playoff, the Bulldogs came up short, 27-24, inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday night.
It was Georgia’s first loss since falling to the Crimson Tide in the 2021 SEC Championship Game. In between those defeats, the Bulldogs won an SEC-record 29 games in a row, two CFP national championships, and an SEC title last year. Georgia (12-1) has won 45 of its last 47 games.
Georgia was making its third straight appearance in the SEC Championship Game, the sixth in Kirby Smart’s eight seasons as head coach, and the 11th overall since the game made its debut in 1992.
The Bulldogs forced an Alabama (12-1) three-and-out to start the game, and then the Georgia offense went on the attack. On the first play, quarterback Carson Beck hit tight end Brock Bowers for 23 yards. On the next play, Beck connected with wideout Dominic Lovett for 18 yards. Later, Beck found Ladd McConkey for a 15-yard gain, and two plays later, Kendall Milton ran the ball in from the 17-yard line for a 7-0 Georgia lead with 9:31 left in the opening quarter. Beck finished the game 21 of 29 for 243 yards.
Alabama got on the scoreboard with 3:43 to play in the first quarter with kicker Will Reichard’s 43-yard field goal, making it 7-3. The Tide had a second-and-3 at the Bulldog 19 when defensive lineman Christen Miller stuffed a run for a six-yard loss. Georgia’s pass rush disrupted the next play, forcing an incompletion and the field-goal attempt.
The Crimson Tide took a 10-7 lead with 12:04 remaining in the first half, scoring a 28-yard touchdown on Jalen Milroe’s screen pass left to running back Jamarion Miller. The play before, Alabama was able to convert a fourth-and-1 to keep the drive going.
Georgia tried to tie the game on the ensuing drive, but kicker Peyton Woodring’s 50-yard attempt bounced off the right upright and landed in the end zone. It was the freshman’s first miss since September, snapping a streak of 16 field goals in a row.
With 48 seconds left in the half, Alabama took a 17-7 lead on Milroe’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Burton. Two plays earlier, the Tide gained 22 yards on fourth-and-4, down to the Bulldog 15.
Alabama led 17-7 at the half, the second-largest halftime deficit Georgia had faced all season. The Bulldogs trailed South Carolina 14-3 on Sept. 16, before rallying for a 24-14 win. But they weren’t able to complete the rally this time.
On the first play of its second drive of the third quarter, Georgia quickly got into the red zone with a 51-yard completion down the left sideline to wideout Arian Smith, to the Bama 19. The Bulldogs eventually got a 34-yard field goal from Woodring, cutting the Tide’s lead to 17-10, with 8:51 left in the quarter.
Georgia forced another Alabama punt on its next drive, but the Bulldogs fumbled an end-around handoff deep in UGA territory on the ensuing drive, and the Tide recovered at the 11-yard line. The Bulldog defense did its job, holding Bama to a 28-yard field goal, and a 20-10 lead, with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
In the fourth, the Bulldogs forced an Alabama punt, and Anthony Evans III covered 30 yards on the return, down to the Tide 35. Later, Beck hit McConkey for a 15-yard gain down to the 1, and Beck ran the ball in on the next play, cutting the Tide lead to 20-17 with 10:16 remaining in the game.
Alabama didn’t let the momentum swing Georgia’s way for long, marching 75 yards in nine plays and scoring on Roydell Williams’ one-yard run. The score pushed the Tide’s lead to 27-17 with 5:47 to play in the game.
Georgia drove quickly the other way, and had a second-and-goal at the 1 with less than four minutes remaining. It soon after faced a fourth down at the 1 with 2:54 to play. After a timeout, Georgia gave the ball to Milton, who ran it in for the touchdown. Woodring’s extra point made it 27-24 with 2:52 to go. It was Milton’s 11th touchdown run in the past eight games.
Alabama was able to run the ball effectively and run out the clock on the ensuing drive, ending the Bulldogs’ comeback bid and their win streak.
The four teams in the College Football Playoff will be announced Sunday, as well as the teams in the New Year’s Six bowl games. This season, Georgia will extend the nation’s longest active bowl streak to 27 years in a row.
*Streak Snapped: With today’s 27-24 loss, Georgia (12-1) saw its school and SEC record for consecutive victories snap at 29. Before today, the last loss came on Dec. 4, 2021 here in the SEC Championship Game.
*Georgia’s winning streak began during the 2021 season (Dec. 31) when the Bulldogs beat #2 Michigan 34-11 in a CFP semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl and ended tonight in the SEC Championshp Game (Dec. 2) versus No. 8 Alabama (12-1). The Bulldogs won back-to-back national championships during this stretch, the first to do that in the CFP era.
*The Bulldogs are now 45-2 in their last 47 games with both losses coming to Alabama in an SEC Championship Game (SEC CG).
*The Bulldogs under Kirby Smart are 93-16 overall and 2-4 in the SEC CG while the Bulldogs overall are 4-7 in the SEC CG.
Summary Of The Offense: The Bulldogs tallied 321 yards of total offense on 60 plays in a 27-24 loss.
At the half, Georgia had 143 yards on 28 plays and trailed 17-7. It was the second largest halftime deficit of the season after trailing South Carolina 14-3 in Athens in an eventual 24-14 win.
*Today, the Bulldogs went 4-for-5 in the Red Zone with 3 TDs, a FG and missed field goal. They were 4-for-12 on 3rd Downs and 2-for-2 on 4th.
*Going to the 4th quarter, Georgia faced a 10-point deficit at 20-10. That was the largest since a 14-point deficit in the 2022 CFP Semifinal Peach Bowl here against #4 Ohio State when they led 38-24. The Bulldogs would rally that night for a 42-41 win but not tonight, falling 27-24.
*Georgia went 35 yards on four plays in 1:37 to cut it to 20-17 as Beck ran it in from one yard out. The drive was sparked by a 28-yard punt return by freshman Anthony Evans III, his second of his career. The first came against Ball State in week two.
*Georgia went 75 yards in 10 plays in 2:55 as senior Kendall Milton scored on a 4th-and-goal from the one to make it 27-24 with 2:54 left.
*Senior RB Kendall Milton was the leading rusher with 42 yards on 13 carries with 2 TDs. He had a 17-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead.
*A Look At Beck: Junior QB Carson Beck finished 21-for-29 for 243 yards with one rushing TD. In the first half, he was 9-for-12 for 91 yards. Georgia’s first drive of the game resulted in a TD, going 83 yards on eight plays in 3:50 capped by a 17-yard run by senior Kendall Milton. It was his 11th TD of the year, tying him for the team-lead with senior Daijun Edwards. Beck was 4-for-4 for 61 yards on the opening drive, completing passes to four different receivers. After missing last week’s game at Tech, juniors Brock Bowers (TE) and Ladd McConkey (WR) and sophomore Tate Ratledge (RG) returned to action. Bowers caught a 23-yard pass on the first play while McConkey had a 15-yard reception on the opening TD drive. McConkey did not have another catch in the first half and finished with three for 38 yards.
*Bowers Record Watch: Junior TE Brock Bowers had five catches for 53 yards. He moved up to third all-time in school history now with 175 receptions and is fifth in receiving yards with 2,538 yards.
*Defensive Review: UA finished with 306 yards of total offense on 64 plays
*The leading tacklers today were junior Smael Mondon and sophomore Malaki Starks with eight apiece.
*Sophomore Jalon Walker notched two sacks to give him five on the year. The two sacks in an SEC CG tied the most by a Bulldog, joining Will Thompson in 2005 and Jarvis Jones in 2012. Also today, senior Warren Brinson had his second sack of the season. Senior Tramel Walthour picked up his first sack.
*Trailing 17-7 to start the 2nd half and following a Bulldog punt, Georgia forced UA to a three-and-out on its first series. After Georgia cut it to 17-10 with 8:51 left in the 3rd, UA gained 30 yards on eight plays and was forced to punt again.
*A fumble gave UA the ball at the 11. The Bulldogs held UA to a field goal and the deficit was back to 10 at 20-10 with 48 seconds left in the 3rd.
*After a UGA TD, UA went 75 yards on nine plays in 4:29 to reclaim a 10-point edge with 5:47 left in the contest.
*In the first half, UA finished with 171 yards of offense on 32 plays and a 17-7 lead. They were 1-for-6 on 3rd Downs but 2-for-2 on 4th Downs.
*UA’s first two drives were three-and-outs for a total of four yards. The next two drives resulted in a FG (8 plays, 26 yards) and TD (10 plays, 92 yards) for a 10-7 edge with 12:04 left in the first half.
*A Look At The Special Teams: Freshman PK Peyton Woodring missed a career-long 50-yard attempt and that snapped a streak of 16 straight field goals made, which ranked 2nd in school history. On his next attempt, he made a 34-yard FG. He was 3-for-3 on PATs to give him 125 points this season, which ranks sixth in school history.
*Sophomore P Brett Thorson tallied four punts for a 50.3 avg including a 60-yarder with no returns. Junior Jared Zirkel handled the kickoffs.
*Captains, Coin Toss and For Starters: Senior Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (WR) and juniors Sedrick Van Pran (C), Javon Bullard (S) and Kamari Lassiter (DB) served as the game captains. UGA won the toss and elected to defer. Van Pran made his team-leading 43rd career start. Sophomore Marvin Jones Jr. (OLB) made his first career start.
*Honoring #77 Devin Willock: Junior Sedrick Van Pran (C), normally #63, wore #77 today in honor of his late teammate Devin Willock. A different Bulldog offensive lineman will be wearing #77 each game this season
*Up Next: Georgia (12-1, 8-0 SEC) will tune in Sunday for the CFP/Bowl selection show to learn its destination and opponent. The Bulldogs lead the nation with the longest active bowl streak, extending it to 27 years this year.