Alabama holds off Georgia 32-28, advances to Miami


Alabama holds off Georgia 32-28, advances to Miami

ATLANTA (AP) Alabama got a hand on the ball, which wobbled into the arms of a Georgia receiver who wasn't supposed to catch it.

Before the Bulldogs could get off another play, the clock ran out.

The Crimson Tide is heading back to the national championship game.

By a mere 5 yards.

AJ McCarron threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper with 3:15 remaining and No. 2 Alabama barely held on at the end, beating No. 3 Georgia 32-28 in a Southeastern Conference title game for the ages Saturday night.

``I'm ready to have a heart attack here,'' Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said.

As confetti fell from the Georgia Dome roof, the Bulldogs collapsed on the field, stunned they had come so close to knocking off the team that has won two of the last three national titles.

``We just ran out of time,'' Georgia coach Mark Richt moaned.

Alabama (12-1) will get a chance to make it three out of four when it faces top-ranked Notre Dame for the BCS crown on Jan. 7 in Miami.

This time, Alabama will head to the big game with a championship already in its pocket - unlike last year's squad, which didn't even make it to Atlanta, but got a do-over against SEC champion LSU in the national title game.

Even though the Tide left little doubt it was truly the best team in the country, routing the Tigers 21-0, there were plenty who thought Saban's team didn't deserve a rematch.

There will be no complaints when Alabama heads to South Florida for a dream matchup between two of college football's most storied programs. The Tide and Notre Dame have each won eight Associated Press national titles, more than any other school.

``This group has been fantastic,'' Saban said. ``They were able to accomplish something of significance, and something that last year's team didn't accomplish, which is win the SEC championship.''

What a game it was.

After an apparent game-clinching interception by Alabama was overturned on a video review, Georgia's Aaron Murray completed a 15-yard pass to Arthur Lynch, a 23-yarder to Tavarres King and a 26-yarder to Lynch, who was hauled down at the Alabama 8 as the clock continued to run.

The Bulldogs (11-2) were out of timeouts.

Instead of spiking the ball and gathering themselves, the Bulldog hurriedly snapped the ball with 9 seconds to go. Murray attempted a pass into the end zone but it was deflected at the line and ended in the arms of Chris Conley out in the right flats.

Surprised to see the ball coming his way, he instinctively dove for the catch at the 5.

Georgia couldn't get off another play.

Richt said the offense called the play it wanted at the end, a deeper route to Malcolm Mitchell, but Alabama ruined it by tipping the pass. If it had fallen incomplete instead of being caught by Conley, the Bulldogs would've had at least one more play, maybe two.

Instead, they were done.

``I told the guys I was disappointed, but I'm not disappointed in them,'' Richt said. ``They're warriors. We had a chance at the end.''

The consolation prize will likely be one of the second-tier bowls - the Capital One, Cotton or Chick-fil-A - though the Bulldogs certainly looked like a team deserving of something better.

``Do I think we're worthy of a BCS bowl?'' Richt said. ``Yes I do.''

The Bulldogs even got props from Saban.

``It would be a crying shame if Georgia doesn't get to go to a BCS bowl game,'' the Alabama coach said. ``They played a tremendous game out there. That was a great football game, by both teams. It came right down to the last play.''

In a back-and-forth second half that looked nothing like a game in the defensive-minded SEC, the Crimson Tide trailed 21-10 after Alec Ogletree returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Alabama rallied behind a punishing run game, finishing with 350 yards on the ground, an SEC championship game record. Eddie Lacy - the game's MVP - rumbled for 181 yards on 20 carries, including two TDs. Freshman T.J. Yeldon added 153 yards on 25 carries, also scoring a TD.

After the game, Lacy hooked up with the guy he replaced in the Alabama backfield - Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, now with the NFL's New Orleans Saints.

``He just told me congratulations and that I did a great job running and it was it was the best he's ever seen me run.'' Lacy said.

But the Tide won it through the air.

With Georgia stacking the line, McCarron fooled the Bulldogs with play action and delivered a perfectly thrown pass to Cooper, who beat Damian Swann in single coverage down the left side.

Georgia played like a champion until the clock ran out, though.

Using up their timeouts and forcing a punt, the Bulldogs got the ball back at their 15 with 1:08 remaining. Alabama broke into a celebration when a pass down the middle for Conley was deflected and Dee Milliner appeared to make a diving interception. But the replay showed the ball hit the ground, so Murray and the Georgia offense trotted back on the field for its last gasp.

And what a gasp it was.

Just not quite enough.

Todd Gurley led Georgia with 122 yards rushing, including a couple of TDs. Murray was 18 of 33 for 265 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

McCarron was 12 of 21 for 162 yards with an interception, only his third of the season.

After a defensive struggle in the first half, with Alabama kicking a field goal on the final play for a 10-7 lead, the last two quarters were nothing but run-and-gun.

The Bulldogs took the second-half kickoff and marched right down the field for the go-ahead touchdown. Gurley ran it seven times, capped by leg-churning, 3-yard drive up the middle to make it 14-10.

Alabama looked like it was about to answer, holding the ball for more than 5 1-2 minutes, before the drive stalled. Cade Foster came on for a 50-yard field-goal attempt, but his low kick was swatted down by Cornelius Washington. Ogletree scooped up the bouncing ball in stride and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown.

Suddenly, the Bulldogs led 21-10.

But the Tide wasn't about to go away that easy. Yeldon broke off a 31-yard run, Swann was called interference on a throw down the middle, and Yeldon powered in from the 10. He ran it again for the 2-point conversion, pulling Alabama to 21-18.

Georgia went three-and-out, and the ground assault resumed. Lacy barreled over right guard for 32 yards. Yeldon got it down to the 1. Lacy returned for the first snap of the fourth period, bulling over to put Alabama ahead 25-21.

The Tide's momentum lasted about 2 minutes.

Murray found King down the middle for a 45-yard completion and Gurley finished off the lightning-quick possession with a 10-yard touchdown run up the middle, putting Georgia back on top, 28-25.

But Alabama knows a thing or two about comebacks, having rebounded the last two years from regular-season losses.

Just three weeks ago, the Tide was upset at home by Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M.

Now, Bama is off to play for another title.

``It's just the never-give-up attitude,'' McCarron said. ``You've got to keep fighting through it.''


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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 18, 39 days before the NFL draft.  

Looking at next year’s free agents

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens.

Note: I’m not including Brandon Scherff here because the team has a fifth-year option on him that they surely will activate before the May 2 deadline.

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard).

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility.

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon.

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup.

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight.

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Regarding the reported visit of defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins with the Redskins:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 29
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 131
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 175

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Game 72 Capitals at Flyers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 72 Capitals at Flyers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pa.

When: 5:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Flyers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Flyers game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals (41-23-7) take on the Flyers (36-25-11) Sunday, March 18 at 5:00 p.m. ET in Philadelphia.


The Capitals-Flyers game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

4:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
4:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
5:00 p.m. — Capitals at Flyers
7:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
8:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
9:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


The Capitals-Flyers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.