For my next trip down Memory Lane, which intersects with Best Alabama Games I Have Attended Avenue, I am going to harken all the way back to 2012’s SEC Championship Game.
Alabama and Georgia were duking it out for the right to completely bludgeon Notre Dame for a national championship. Even Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend knew the SEC champion would beat the Golden Domers so badly it would be considered a sin.
So, after 59 minutes and 45 seconds of pure football awesomeness in the Georgia Dome, ’Bama held onto a 32-28 lead. The fickle fate of momentum had reared its ugly head for the umpteenth time and Georgia, which had looked left for dead just 60 real time seconds earlier, was now knocking on the Tide’s doorstep.
“Fifteen seconds left.”
That’s what I thought to myself as I stood next to my seat in section 352.
“Since Alabama still has their 3-time outs, maybe there is a chance ’Bama can get close enough to throw a Hail Mary. Of course, Georgia would have to kick the ball into the end zone for a touchback…”
See, I was resigned to the fact UGA was assured of a score that would give the Dawgs a 35-32 lead. After a scoreless first quarter, this title game had more back-and-forth action than a Wimbledon marathon. I was dead certain Georgia would get its touchdown and leave Alabama with only 10 or 12 seconds to retaliate.
I was still in the middle of my rationalization the Tide could even be in a position to heave a desperation throw when my section of fans erupted with joyous cheers. Husbands were hugging wives, wives were hugging friends, girlfriends were hugging husbands and elated small children had even quit texting.
As it turns out, Alabama didn’t need that Hail Mary.
After driving the ball all the way to Alabama’s 7-yard line, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray passed up an opportunity to spike the ball and stop the clock. Instead, he opted for a short out- route pass which was tipped by a defender then caught by Murray’s target. When the receiver landed in bounds, there was no time left to get set or a final offensive play.
After all of the offensive, defensive and special teams’ prowess of the day featuring future NFL stars like Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley and CJ Mosely, it was a tipped catch that sealed the deal for the Tide.
In a way, it was sad a game filled with unbelievable plays, the most unbelievable was a 3-yard catch. And in a game that deserved to end on the final play, that final play didn’t deserve to end that game.
In another not-so-sad way, because we were going to the championship — again!
Of course, Alabama went on to South beach that year and left Notre Dame battered and bruised along the Atlantic shoreline when it left. I went to that contest, too, but in terms of sheer viewing pleasure, the 2012 SEC Championship was by far more fun.
In fact, I would say that particular SEC title game was the best in the almost 30-year history of the event.