ATLANTA – Alabama got a hand on the ball, which wobbled into the arms of a Georgia receiver who wasn’t supposed to catch it.
Before the Bulldogs could get off another play, the clock ran out.
The Crimson Tide are heading back to the national championship game.
By a mere 5 yards.
AJ McCarron threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper with 3:15 remaining and No. 2 Alabama barely held on at the end, beating No. 3 Georgia 32-28 in a Southeastern Conference title game for the ages Saturday.
“I’m ready to have a heart attack here,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said.
As confetti fell from the Georgia Dome roof, the Bulldogs collapsed on the field, stunned they had come so close.
“We just ran out of time,” Georgia coach Mark Richt moaned.
Alabama (12-1) will get a chance to make it three out of four when they face top-ranked Notre Dame for the BCS crown on Jan. 7 in Miami.
The Tide and Notre Dame have each won eight Associated Press national titles, more than any other school.
After an apparent game-clinching interception by Alabama was overturned on a video review, Georgia’s Aaron Murray completed a 15-yard pass to Arthur Lynch, a 23-yarder to Tavarres King and a 26-yarder to Lynch, who was hauled down at the Alabama 8 as the clock continued to run.
The Bulldogs (11-2) were out of timeouts.
Instead of spiking the ball and gathering themselves, the Bulldog snapped the ball with 9 seconds to go. Murray attempted a pass into the corner but it was deflected at the line and ended in the arms of Chris Conley out in the right flats.
Surprised to get the ball, he slipped down at the 5.
Georgia couldn’t get off another play.
“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.”
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 Alec Ogletree returned a blocked field goal for a TD in the third quarter.
Alabama rallied behind a punishing run game, finishing with 350 yards on the ground, an SEC championship game record. Eddie Lacy – the game’s MVP – rumbled for 181 yards on 20 carries, including two TDs. Freshman T.J. Yeldon added 153 yards on 25 carries, also scoring a TD.
Todd Gurley led Georgia with 122 yards rushing, including a couple of TDs. Murray was 18 of 33 for 265 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
McCarron was 12 of 21 for 162 yards with an interception, just his third of the season.