Alabama’s Eddie Lacy slammed into three Georgia defenders who met him in a hole at the line of scrimmage. Instead of going down, Lacy spun out and finished with a 32-yard gain.
A few plays, later he dove into the end zone from an inch away. Whether the Crimson Tide needed an inch or a mile, Lacy and Alabama’s running game could practically call their shot in the Tide’s 32-28 victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship game on Saturday night at the Georgia Dome.
Lacy rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns to earn most valuable player honors. The total was the third-highest in SEC Championship game history. He wasn’t the only weapon. T.J. Yeldon rushed for 153 yards as the Tide totaled 350 rushing yards, breaking the record of 300 they set against Florida in 1999. Yeldon and Lacy became the first two backs on the same team to break 100 yards in SEC Championship game history.
“The offensive line did a great job opening holes for T.J. and I,” Lacy said.
The duo was so effective that for most of the second half the Tide made little pretense of thinking about passing the ball, using Lacy, Yeldon or quarterback A.J. McCarron to rake the Bulldogs for 198 yards on 29 carries, a 6.82-yards per carry average. Two touchdown drives in the second half were done without a passing yard.
“They just lined up and knocked us off the ball,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said of the second half.
Even when Lacy or Yeldon didn’t carry the ball they affected the game. And Alabama coach Nick Saban picked the perfect opportunity to take advantage of their threat, calling one of the Tide’s seven pass attempts in the second half in one of the game’s key moments.
Saban said he and his staff began to notice Georgia’s safeties moving closer to the line of scrimmage to try to stop the run. Trailing 28-25, McCarron faked a handoff on first-and-10 on Georgia’s 45. The move caused Georgia cornerback Damian Swann to hesitate, and Amari Cooper ran right by him, with was no safety to help. McCarron hit Cooper in stride for a 45-yard scoring pass that gave the Tide a 32-28 lead with 3:15 left.
“We were going to take a shot in the first play of the series,” Saban said. “A.J. made a great throw, and Cooper made a great catch.”
The Bulldogs did a reasonable job in the first quarter, limiting Alabama to 25 yards. But Lacy got going in the second quarter after 21 yards in the first quarter.
After a 20-yard run on the previous drive, Lacy burst through a hole on the right for with a 41-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The score tied the score at 7-7 with 1:59 left in the first half. He finished with 73 yards in the quarter, part of the Tide’s 127 in the period and 152 in the half.
Alabama almost doubled that in the third quarter, racking up 143 rushing yards in the period as Lacy (176) and Yeldon (106) surpassed 100 yards.
“Eddie did as fine a job as anybody has ever done for us in that situation,” Saban said.
On the play that preceded McCarron’s scoring pass to Cooper, Georgia had Yeldon stopped short of the first down on third-and-5 at the 50. But the defenders were tired, and Yeldon shrugged them off to pick up the first down.
Richt said he didn’t know if his defense was tired, but he said it was obvious they were tired of getting run on.
“It was impressive by their people up front, and we just weren’t able to stop it,” Richt said.
More notes about the rushing game from Alabama’s sports information department