Crimson Tide triumphs, heartbreaking 32-28 loss for Georgia

ATLANTA -- What a game. What an event. What a show.

Reality doesn't always live up to the hype. Saturday night's SEC Championship shootout was fortunate enough to dazzle anyone who played in or watched it.

Reigning national champion Alabama survived 32-28 over Georgia, earning the right to defend its crown against No. 1 Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship on Jan. 7 in South Florida.

As he stood just off to the side while the Crimson Tide partied on the victory stage, SEC commissioner Mike Slive couldn't stop beaming.

"It really was a showcase," Slive said. "That was running through my mind a lot as I just stood here and watched every aspect of the game - from the moment it started, to every element."

Once a defensive slugfest -- the first quarter was scoreless for the first time in the SEC Championship's 21-year history -- an all-faceted attack broke out, with Alabama's AJ McCarron barely edging Georgia's Aaron Murray with the game-winning 45-yard strike to Amari Cooper with 3 minutes, 15 seconds remaining.

"It's fun, but it's nerve-wracking at the same time," McCarron said. "You kind of want to put up points, but that's football. It happens sometimes, and we did a great job of bouncing back."

From the final play of the first half and then on, five lead changes sent both the participants, 75,624 in attendance and millions of television viewers on a roller-coaster ride.

Georgia briefly held the game's largest lead at 21-10 midway through the third quarter before Alabama was lifted by the heroics of McCarron, Cooper and Tide tailbacks Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

Alabama coach Nick Saban was so smitten with Georgia's effort, he couldn't quite believe the fate of Saturday's loser was a far lesser postseason trip than the national championship.

"I think it's a crying shame if Georgia doesn't get to go to a BCS bowl game," Saban said. "They played a tremendous game out there today, and they could have won at the end just the same as us. It came right down to the last play."