University of Alabama

Memorable special team moments highlight SEC Championship Game’s Georgia Dome finale

Alabama running back Joshua Jacobs (25) celebrates his touchdown against Florida during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Atlanta.
Alabama running back Joshua Jacobs (25) celebrates his touchdown against Florida during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Atlanta. AP

The final SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome won’t go down as one of the conference’s all-time greats, but the matchup between two of the league’s most storied programs featured memorable moments befitting of a finale.

The SEC Championship moves across the street to the currently under construction Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2017.

“I think there were some crazy things that happened in the game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

It started with Alabama running Derrick Gore’s blocking a punt late in the first quarter.

Fellow running back Josh Jacobs recovered the kick and ran it 27-yards down the Gators’ sideline for a touchdown. It was the first blocked punt return for a touchdown in SEC Championship game history.

Last year, Alabama blocked a Florida punt in the title game in the end zone for a safety.

“This group, we’ve scored more non-offensive touchdowns this year than any team I’ve been associated with,” Saban said. “I think it speaks to the playmaker type guys that we have.”

Alabama leads college football with 14 non-offensive touchdowns this season, with 10 coming from the defense. The Crimson Tide scored four ways Saturday — pass, run, punt block and interception — with six players accounting for the team’s seven touchdowns.

The wild exchange after the punt block continued with Florida defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga blocking Adam Griffith’s ensuing point-after attempt. The batted ball landed right in the arms of linebacker David Reese, an inch from the goal line.

The 6-foot, 244-pound linebacker rumbled his way 99-yards downfield surrounded by a handful of teammates cheering him on.

It was only the second time in championship game history a blocked extra point was returned for points. Auburn’s Quinton Reese did it in the 1997 SEC Championship game against Tennessee.

Alabama likely will get one more chance to make a few more Georgia Dome memories in the Peach Bowl at the end of the month.

The College Football Playoff committee announces the semifinal pairings Sunday afternoon, with Atlanta as the No. 1 seed’s probable destination.

“You usually don’t play in the same place twice in the postseason, but it’s a great venue to play in,” Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpartick said. “The fans like us playing here, too.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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