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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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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 25, 31 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Fan questions—The secondary

To be sure, there are reasons to be concerned about the secondary and we’ll get into those in a bit. But the popular notion that the secondary struggled last year is not accurate.

Do you want to go standard stats? They were ninth in the league in passing yards allowed and 10th in opponent passer rating last year.

Do you prefer more advanced analytics? They were sixth in defensive passing DVOA and 11th in adjusted net yards per attempt.

That’s not a great pass defense but it was a pretty good one. It should be noted that they also benefited from a solid pass rush; they were seventh in the league in sack percentage. Still, you don’t finish in the top third of the league in pass defense without at least a competent secondary.

The question is, will it remain competent? Kendall Fuller was indeed a key player, one of the best slot corners in the league. Bashaud Breeland was inconsistent, but he did shine on occasion. But the fact that he is still available as a free agent indicates what the league thinks of him, problems passing the physical notwithstanding. Those two will have to be replaced.

It is likely that Quinton Dunbar will take Breeland’s spot on the outside. That is at worst a lateral exchange if not an improvement. Dunbar has been working for three years to get this opportunity and there is confidence among the coaches and, perhaps more importantly, the players that he is ready.

Orlando Scandrick is the probable starter at slot. He is a downgrade from Fuller, no question about it. If he is healthy—a big if—Scandrick is good enough to get the job done. Don’t let the star he wore on the side of his helmet for so many years blind you to the fact that he’s a solid player.

The depth at slot consists of second-year player Josh Holsey, who played all of nine snaps on defense last year, and rookie Greg Stroman. That’s not ideal but most of the other teams in the NFL have a similar depth chart.

The wild card who could be the difference between this secondary being better than last year or worse is Fabian Moreau. He played only 59 defensive snaps as a rookie but he did show off his speed and hard-hitting style on some of his 349 special teams snaps. During the offseason practices that were open to the media, Moreau was mostly Josh Norman’s backup at left cornerback. The feeling is that he won’t remain a reserve. We will have to see how things sort out during training camp.

There should be some improvement at safety if Montae Nicholson figures out how to stay on the field in his second year. If he struggles with injuries again and Deshazor Everett has to line up alongside D.J. Swearinger for a good chunk of the season, the safeties are no worse off because that's what happened last year. 

The bottom line is that a secondary that was good last year may take a step down in 2018 but the decline should not be steep. And if Moreau can be the player the organization thought he could be when they used a third-round pick for him, it could be just as good if not better.

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

Tandler on Twitter

I tweeted this in response to a discussion about the relative popularity of the NFL and NBA. Albert Breer’s tweet on the TV ratings for the leagues’ respective drafts was the nexus of the discussion.

Timeline  

Redskins cornerback Josh Holsey was born on this date in 1994.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 31
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 45
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 59

The Redskins last played a game 176 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 76 days.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.