ATLANTA — Crimson shakers began waving more than an hour before kickoff when the first few guitar chords of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" began blaring over the Georgia Dome sound system.
They continued shaking enthusiastically well into the evening as University of Alabama fans belted a repeated chorus of Rammer Jammer following Saturday's 32-28 Southeastern Conference championship victory over Georgia. It was the fourth SEC title for Alabama (12-1, 8-1) and the first since 2009.
The win sets up second-ranked Alabama for a shot at defending last season's national championship. The Crimson Tide will face top-ranked Notre Dame on Jan. 7 in the BCS national title game in Miami.
"It was an honor just to be in this game," Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron said. "And now to represent the SEC in the national championship game is a dream come true.
"When I get older and have kids of my own, this game might be on ESPN Classic. But I'm just living in the moment and enjoying this right now."
The game is likely an instant classic for SEC fans considering the stakes being played for, the five lead changes and a thrilling ending.
After Georgia had taken a 21-10 lead midway through the third quarter, Alabama answered with two touchdowns in a five-minute span to regain the lead. Georgia answered with a touchdown two minutes later and held a three-point lead until the final three minutes of the game. That's when McCarron found Amari Cooper for a 45-yard scoring pass, sending the crimson-clad side of the Georgia Dome into delirium.
Georgia drove to the Crimson Tide 8 with 15 seconds remaining, but with the clock still ticking and no timeouts remaining, a completed pass to the 5 allowed time to expire before the Bulldogs were able to take a shot into the end zone.
"This game will be looked at, replayed and talked about for a long time," Cooper said. "With five minutes left I knew we were involved in a great game, and I just wanted to make a play so my team walked off the field with the win."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...