ATLANTA — Georgia traded haymakers with the reigning national champion on Saturday, but it was Alabama in the end that earned the title shot.
In a classic showdown of power defenses against pro-style offenses, Alabama sneaked away with a 32-28 victory in the Southeastern Conference championship game at a raucous Georgia Dome.
The No. 3 Bulldogs were trying to earn their first national championship shot in 30 years, while the No. 2 Crimson Tide were aiming to get back for the third time in four years.
The Tide rallied from deficits of 7-0, 21-10 and 28-25, taking the lead for good with a 45-yard strike from A.J. McCarron to Amari Cooper with 3:15 remaining.
Alabama will play No. 1 Notre Dame in the BCS title game Jan. 7 in Miami.
Georgia’s last chance – after going three and out on its previous two possessions – ended at the Alabama 5-yard line after Chris Conley caught a deflected pass in bounds with no timeouts left. Alabama poured onto the field as the clock ran out.
The game was seasoned with plenty of local flavor.
Westside High’s Sanders Commings was a major figure in the first half. The senior cornerback caught his first career pass on a fake punt in the second quarter, setting up the Bulldogs’ first touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Commings then intercepted Alabama’s A.J. McCarron in the end zone on a huge goal-line stand.
In the third quarter, Burke County’s Cornelius Washington blocked an Alabama field goal attempt and Alec Ogletree returned it 55 yards for a 21-10 Georgia lead.
But Alabama’s offense took over from there, wearing down the Bulldogs with its smashmouth rushing to set an SEC record with 350 yards on the ground.