There was so much to say about Alabama’s dramatic, 32-28 victory over Georgia, more than the initial day-after blast can cover. So here’s more takeaway from one of the most memorable conference championships in recent memory:
THAT’S AMARI: Alabama’s SEC Championship-record 350 rushing yards, complete with 100-yard performances by running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, overshadowed what would have been an MVP performance in most other circumstances.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper caught eight passes for 128 yards — including the game-winning, a 45-yard bomb from AJ McCarron — but numbers don’t do his performance justice.
First, Alabama had to have it. The Crimson Tide had just lost wide receiver Kenny Bell for the season. Though the coaching staff spent game week repping freshman Chris Black, they ultimately didn’t spend his redshirt Saturday.
Alabama needed something to make Georgia pay for overplaying the run, and Cooper was it. Was he ever it.
He hurt Georgia with quick screens, making quick-step moves that turned them into yardage gainers even when Georgia had people in position to tackle him right after the catch.
How many times did we see McCarron throw that quick screen to one side then come right back to Cooper with another to the opposite side?
Cooper’s touchdown catch, which put Alabama ahead for good, was a clear case of why he was so needed. Georgia, desperate to stop Alabama’s running game, walked a safety up, and Cooper made the Bulldogs pay deep.
But the sweetest individual play Cooper made was his leaping, second-quarter catch.
The 44-yard play got lost in conversation because the drive ended with McCarron throwing an interception at the goal line, but the catch showed why Alabama fans chant “Coooooooop” in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The freshman out-jumped a pretty good player. You might have heard of Bacarri Rambo. The senior has been an SEC starter for quite a while, and he’s a second-team All-SEC pick, per the Associated Press.
Cooper not only out-jumped Rambo, who had moved over and was in position to make the play, but pulled the ball off Rambo’s hands from behind.
In a game of dramatic momentum shifts and lead changes, Cooper’s catch was arguably the most impressive individual play.
MISS-DIAL: One can argue that Quinton Dial’s hard block of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray on an interception return was good football.
One can argue there was no dirty intent. It’s a moving target hitting a moving target, and it appears that Dial at least tried to lead with his shoulder.
But he hit high, and replays show there was helmet-to-helmet contact. Also, slamming high into defenseless players became a point of emphasis this season, with the NCAA mandating that conference offices review such plays.
Just ask Oxford High product Trae Elston. Replays show the freshman Ole Miss safety led with his left shoulder and slammed into the chest of a Texas-El Paso wide receiver, and Elston got a one-game suspension from the SEC office.
SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw has said that the official standing near Dial’s hit on Murray should have called a personal foul.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive will determine whether Dial, who rotates at defensive end behind starter Damion Square, will be suspended for Alabama’s clash with Notre Dame for the BCS Championship.
Based on publicly available video of hits by Elston and Dial, consistency mandates suspension.
HIGH MARKS: Kudos to Georgia coach Mark Richt, who balked at a people-will-say question in Saturday’s postgame and rightly defended his team.
The question attempted to bring the issue of Richt’s and Murray’s past shortcomings in big games into a discussion about the SEC Championship. Yes, it was a big game. Yes, Georgia lost.
No, this was no fail by Richt, Murray or Georgia. The Bulldogs led Alabama three times, and the game ended with Georgia on Alabama’s 4-yard line, in position to score the winning touchdown.
It was a classic game and not the occasion for a question linking past issues in big games, with degrees of separation baked into the question. The question unfairly cheapens the performance of both teams.
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.