ATLANTA — Former Deshler High School standout Deion Belue got a huge hug from fellow defensive back John Felton.
Russellville’s Brent Calloway was mugging for the cameras along with several teammates.
Backup quarterback Blake Sims simply was doing snow angels amid the confetti in front of Alabama’s student section.
That’s how it goes when your team wins the SEC championship with a heart-stopping 32-28 decision over Georgia to earn a trip the BCS National Championship Game in Miami in January.
Alabama, winner of two of the previous three national championships, will try to successfully defend its title when it plays Notre Dame on Jan. 7 in a matchup of two of college football’s most storied programs.
AJ McCarron’s 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper gave Alabama (12-1) the lead with 3:15 to play, and it took a defensive stop at the 5-yard line as time ticked away to preserve the win.
Alabama, ranked No. 2 nationally, rallied three times to win. It trailed 7-0, 21-10 and 28-25 before pulling out the win over No. 3 Georgia in what will be remembered as one of the classic SEC championship games.
“We kind of had that “I would not be denied attitude out there today.’ ” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “This conference will test your mettle. We beat a really good team out there today.”
As was the case in 2011, Alabama had to play its way to a return trip to the championship game after enduring a late-season loss. Last season it was against LSU; this season Texas A&M appeared to derail the Tide three weeks ago with a 29-24 victory. But, things fell Alabama’s way, and Saturday’s game against Georgia was viewed as a national semifinal game for the right to play top-ranked and unbeaten Notre Dame.
In the Georgia Dome on Saturday, Alabama used a devastating rushing attack to power past Georgia. Game MVP Eddie Lacy bull-rushed his way to 181 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman T.J. Yeldon added 153 yards and one touchdown as Alabama finished with an SEC Championship Game record 350 yards.
And, of course, there were a harrowing few final seconds in which Georgia marched methodically down the field in the final minute to nearly put a premature end to Alabama’s championship celebration.
With 15 seconds to play and no timeouts from the Alabama 8, Chris Conley snatched Aaron Murray’s tipped pass for a 3-yard gain but time ran out on Georgia’s national title aspirations.
It was a heartbreaking loss for Georgia, which was trying to win its first national title since 1980.
“Thought it was a great football game,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Unfortunately, we ended up on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Somebody asked me what I thought the difference was, and the only thing I can think of is that we just ran out of time.”
For Alabama, it’s on to Miami with the opportunity to win another national championship.