Alabama locked down Georgia when it mattered mostBy Cody Estremera | 01/09/2018 1:37am
Alabama intercepted Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm twice in its 26-23 overtime win.
ATLANTA— With 6:52 left in the third quarter Georgia answered Alabama’s first touchdown drive, going back up 13. Then just as it had done all season, the Crimson Tide defense shut down the Bulldogs, leading to a 26-23 overtime win.
The Bulldogs managed just 71 yards on their last six drives of the game. Four of the six drives ended in punts, one was an interception and the final drive was the overtime field goal.
Terrell Lewis came up huge for the Crimson Tide in overtime. He found a gap in the offensive line and sacked quarterback Jake Fromm for a loss of 13 yards, forcing Rodrigo Blankenship to kick a 51-yard field goal.
“I saw the gap come right open,” Lewis said. “[Da’Ron] Payne stabbed the A gap, and I executed the loop path. I just had to make the play. I know the DBs are going to keep their coverage, so I just had to make the play.”
Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm finished with two interceptions on the day. One came on its first third down of the game, when Tony Brown snatched the ball away from Javon Wims. The bigger momentum swing came from defensive lineman Raekwon Davis’ interception.
One play after Georgia intercepted freshman Tua Tagovailoa’s pass, Fromm was forced out of the pocket and tried to throw the ball away. Unfortunately for him, the ball hit Da’Shawn Hand allowing Davis to make the play.
“All I know is that it hit my hand and I caught it,” Davis said. “It as crazy, but I did it. I didn’t know that I could run like that.”
He returned it 19 yards before being wrestled to the ground.
Georgia came out strong in the first half. By the end of the first half, it had already gained 223 yards, 97 of which came on the ground, which was almost seven more rushing yards than the Crimson Tide allowed per game. The second quarter was especially explosive. The Bulldogs put up 13 of its 23 points in the quarter.
“They had a good plan against our defense,” head coach Nick Saban said. “Their quarterback did a really good job of checking some plays and hitting some passes, but it was split safeties in the middle of the field. So we were struggling a little bit in the first half defensively, but if you can't overcome hard, you're never going to have any great victories in our life.”
Georgia was prolific on third downs in the first three quarters. The Bulldogs converted on 53 percent of its chances [8-of-15] including a 66.7 percent [6-of-9] performance in the second quarter.
“I think Georgia did a really good job because there were three occasions where they played split safety coverage, which denies the ball deep in longer yardage situations and they ran draw plays,” Saban said. “And Sony Michel made people miss and made a first down. So then we started playing more man to man and middle of the field coverage, and Jake Fromm, that guy, he knows where to go with the ball, and they were running what we call chop routes, was inside fade to the slot receiver. That's what they hit for an 80-yard touchdown to Hardman. So we just kept trying to adapt and adjust.”
Alabama did shut Nick Chubb down. Chubb finished with just 25 yards on 18 carries. Michel finished with 98 yards on 14 carries.
Just as he did against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, Da’Ron Payne was named defensive MVP. He finished with six total tackles in a dominate performance against Georgia’s offensive line.
“I just wanted to go out there and just give it my all and just leave it all on the field,” Payne said. “No matter what happened in the outcome of the game, I just knew I gave everything. I think I did that both games, and it just came -- my dream came true.”