Nationals

Georgia rally falls short in 32-28 loss to Alabama

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Georgia rally falls short in 32-28 loss to Alabama

ATLANTA (AP) Georgia was one play away the end of a 30-year wait for a shot at another national championship.

Instead of a celebrating a comeback to remember, Aaron Murray and the No. 3 Bulldogs will have to live with coming up 5 yards short.

``It came down to one play to win the SEC championship and play for the national championship,'' Murray said.

Georgia's last-minute rally ended on the Alabama 5-yard line as time expired, giving the No. 2 Crimson Tide a 32-28 win in Saturday's Southeastern Conference championship game.

Alabama (12-1) advances to the national championship game against Notre Dame. Georgia (11-2) was denied its first national championship game since the 1982 season.

Only 1 minute, 8 seconds remained when Georgia took possession at its 15. It seemed to be too much field and too little time.

Still, Murray said the Bulldogs were confident.

``We have run four or five successful one-minute drives this season already,'' he said. ``We did more the ball extremely well, and we had a chance to win it.''

Murray completed four passes, three to tight end Arthur Lynch and one to Tavarres King. The offense remained on the field when an apparent interception by Alabama's Dee Milliner was overturned when video review determined the ball hit the ground.

The last completion, a 26-yarder to Lynch, gave the Bulldogs a first down at Alabama's 8. Murray believed Georgia could run two plays with 15 seconds remaining. He said he sensed Alabama's defense wasn't prepared if he could pull off a quick snap, so instead of spiking the ball the ball to stop the clock, he tried a fade pass intended for Malcolm Mitchell in the back corner of the end zone.

``It's either a catch and a touchdown or it's an incomplete pass and we still have time for a play, to take a quick shot with it,'' Murray said.

Instead, the ball was tipped. George receiver Chris Conley caught the deflection and was tackled at the 5. With no timeouts remaining, Georgia couldn't run another play.

``It probably would have been the greatest comeback in Georgia history,'' Murray said. ``It was exciting, that's for sure.''

Exciting and deflating. Georgia players collapsed on the field. Some remained down on one knee, staring in stunned disbelief, as confetti began to fall on Alabama's celebration.

King called the last play ``insane.''

``It's just something crazy that happens like that,'' King said. ``It's just crazy. A crazy moment.''

Murray had another description.

``It stinks,'' the quarterback said.

Murray completed 18 of 33 passes for 265 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the game that carried the potential to define his career.

Instead, the game belonged to AJ McCarron and the Crimson Tide.

McCarron threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper with 3:15 remaining. McCarron was 12 of 21 for 162 yards with an interception.

Georgia took its last lead at 28-25 on a 10-yard run by Todd Gurley, who had 122 yards rushing with two touchdowns, early in the final quarter.

Gurley couldn't match Alabama's 350 yards rushing. Eddie Lacy had 181 yards with two touchdowns. T.J. Yeldon added 153 yards rushing with a touchdown.

``They've got a great running game and two great running backs,'' said Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree.

Keith Marshall had only three yards on two carries as Georgia's complement to Gurley.

Alabama, which has won two of the last three national championships, now has a chance for another. It will face Notre Dame for the BCS crown on Jan. 7 in Miami.

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

Georgia's consolation prize will likely be a spot in the Capital One Bowl, though they certainly looked like a team fully deserving of a BCS bid. Georgia coach Mark Richt said his team had the play it wanted at the end, but Alabama ruined it by getting a hand on the ball.

``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. We just didn't get it done.''

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 Ogletree returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs' sideline erupted in jubilation as Georgia appeared to take control of the game.

But Alabama rallied behind a punishing run game and then 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.

Georgia played like a champion, too.

The Bulldogs punted the ball back to Alabama with 2:25 left, relying on its defense to finally stop the Tide. Georgia used up its final two timeouts, forced a punt and got the ball back at its 15.

The last-minute drive fell short, but Murray said the Bulldogs could be proud of their effort.

``We're a great team,'' Murray said. ``We've worked extremely hard. I feel for our guys.''

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Follow Charles Odum on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CharlesOdum

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Nationals Scene and Heard: Crowd noise makes its way into the stadium

Nationals Scene and Heard: Crowd noise makes its way into the stadium

WASHINGTON -- Suddenly on Thursday, the speakers were alive in Nationals Park.

Out came the voice of public address announcer Jerome Hruska, who was in the stadium. The scoreboard lit up. The light boards around the park were active. By 8 p.m., the stadium lights were on, a benign breeze floated through the park and the intrasquad game was scoreless in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Starlin Castro singled up the middle off James Borque to excite the “crowd.” A cheer came through the speakers when the ball landed in center field. There were also cheers when a player struck out. Such is the nature of intrasquad play.

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So, the park went from echoing silence for almost two weeks to jazzed up three days before the exhibition opener. It was an improvement.

“If anything, it gets you zoned in a little more,” Erick Fedde said. “Crowd noise is something I feel like most are pretty good at zoning out. I didn’t really think about it to be honest. But it was nice to kind of feel like we had a little bit better atmosphere today.”

Major League Baseball went a similar route to the Premier League in order to combat empty stadiums. Sky Sports worked with EA Sports’ FIFA division to create simulated chants and crowd noises designed for specific teams. Here, MLB drew from audio created for the video game MLB The Show.

The video board usage was a distinct improvement from prior days when it only carried a doomsday-looking clock since workouts began July 3. Wednesday, it was filled with normal graphics -- including new ones mentioning who won the 2019 World Series -- throughout the intrasquad game.

“They noticed it,” Davey Martinez said of the players. “With not having like a regular crowd, obviously the echo out in the field, it’s different. We had to click it down a little bit to get it where we thought it was more ‘real’. But they liked it. They liked the noise. They like the music -- they like to dance -- so it was good. We got a great reaction from them, liked it, we’re going to incorporate it this season. We’re going to work out the bugs. It’s definitely a lot better to hear that than listen [to] yourself screaming or hear everyone talking.”

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It’s a work in progress. Wednesday night, Wilmer Difo popped up behind home plate into the stands and a large cheer went up. It was the kind of noise even the most overzealous fan base would not produce.

The noise as a whole was turned down in the final innings, per the players’ request. Martinez thought they found the proper spot for the volume by the end of the night.

“I want to make this last week or so as close as we can to real games,” Martinez said.

-- Stephen Strasburg started for one side. He struck out four consecutive batters after Trea Turner doubled to start the intrasquad game. Not surprisingly, Martinez said he thought Strasburg looked good. He’s in line to face James Paxton in the second game of the season when the New York Yankees come to Nationals Park.

-- Starlin Castro has been piling up at-bats and swings since joining camp July 9. He started late, so he is trying to catch up. He’s also crucial -- remaining likely to hit third during the season -- so the Nationals want to be sure he’s not doing too much.

“It’s a fine line,” Martinez said. “He’s been taking a lot of swings in the cage. Hitting, hitting off the velo machine. I’m not overly concerned with Starlin. He’s just a pure hitter. He’s a good hitter. ...he’ll be fine.”

-- Carter Kieboom made a nice sliding defensive play to his left and was able to get up and throw to first for the out. He also turned a 5-3 double play when fielding a grounder, hearing yells to step on the bag, slightly changing direction to find it, then throwing to first. His education at third base is happening in real-time.

-- Martinez positively mentioned Jake Irvin throwing 95-97 mph on Wednesday when he pitched the bottom of the fifth inning. Irvin, 23, pitched for Single-A Hagerstown last season.

“It’s so funny to watch these young kids come up,” Martinez said. “He walked off the mound and had those big ‘ol eyeballs sticking out. I can remember those days when I was a kid coming out and playing those games.”

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Nationals have perfect response to Twitter's verified shutdown

Nationals have perfect response to Twitter's verified shutdown

On Wednesday, Twitter experienced a large number of hacks into numerous big name, verified accounts. As the social media platform worked to control the problem, it limited the tweeting capabilities for all verified accounts.

Essentially, that means anyone with a blue checkmark is stuck in a social media purgatory where they couldn't share their thoughts. That includes the Washington Nationals team account. 

However, verified accounts still had the ability to retweet other tweets. The Nationals took advantage of this feature in the most perfect way possible, deciding to share some tweets from an account called "everyword" which tweets every word in the English dictionary. Yes, that account does perfectly sum up what Twitter is.

Washington used its retweeting ability to form an incredible sentence on the team's profile: "cant tweet but still champions."

The Nationals have mentioned their recent World Series Championship in almost every tweet since the final out on October 30, 2019, and rightfully so. The accomplishment was a big one, and until someone knocks them off, they have the right to let the world know they are the champions. Twitter may have been in a shutdown, but that wasn't going to stop them.

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Soon after, tweeting rights were once again granted, and Washington wasted no time getting back to their Twitter grind.

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