- Christian Petersen/Getty Images
- Alabama completed a huge comeback in the second half and beat Georgia in overtime to win the national championship.
- The game featured several notable calls and no-calls by the officials.
- The bad calls are being blamed for hurting Georgia’s chances of winning the title.
The Alabama Crimson Tide won yet another national championship on Monday night, beating the Georgia Bulldogs in dramatic fashion after coming back from a two touchdown deficit at halftime.
The hero of the comeback was backup quarterback and true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who took over for Jalen Hurts at halftime and provided a spark to the Crimson Tide offense. And while Tagovailoa will surely be remembered as the story of the night, and rightfully so, there’s a chance that his magical comeback wouldn’t have been possible without some controversial calls by the officiating crew that went Alabama’s way.
The first and possibly biggest of these calls came during Alabama’s first drive of the second half. Head coach Nick Saban made the decision to put in Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide offense immediately stalled and were forced to punt.
During the punt on fourth down, Georgia blocked the kick and recovered the ball in the red zone. But referees would call the Bulldogs offsides on the play, leading to the down to be replayed. But upon closer examination, it became clear that the Georgia defense never crossed the line before the snap, but rather timed the jump quite perfectly.
It looks like Tyler Simmonswas onside on this blocked punt…. pic.twitter.com/7EkFmnnXOS
— DawgNation (@DawgNation) January 9, 2018
As Kirk Herbstreit would point out from the announcers’ booth, the correct ruling might’ve been a false start on two players of the Alabama punt team, but since the officials also missed that penalty, had they properly swallowed their whistles and not called Georgia offsides, the Bulldogs would have been in position to score to take a 20-0 lead and hold onto momentum.
Had Georgia taken a 20-point lead against a true freshman quarterback who had just led his team to a three-and-out on his first drive under center, there’s a chance Bama never would’ve had the chance to mount a comeback.
Another crucial ruling that helped came just a few plays later. After Georgia received the Bama punt, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm and company were pushed back and faced third-and-21 on their first drive of the half. Georgia played it safe on the long third down. Fromm handed the ball off to D’Andre Swift, who gained four yards before being tackled by an Alabama defender who grabbed a piece of the facemask.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 9, 2018
The referees once again missed the call, and what would’ve been a 15-yard penalty and automatic first down instead became a Georgia punt. When the replay was shown on the big screens of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Atlanta crowd rained boos and groans down on the officials.
On the ensuing Alabama possession, the Tide would score their first touchdown of the game, beginning their impressive comeback.
The final missed call that will surely eat at Bulldogs fans came on Alabama’s game-tying touchdown with four minutes left in the game.
Facing fourth-and-four and needing a touchdown, Bama scored to tie the game. But Najee Harris, the running back in motion, appeared to leave a fraction of a second too early.
A five-yard penalty would’ve pushed Alabama back to fourth-and-nine, at which point they’d need to pull off an even more impressive conversion or they might have elected to kick the field goal and hope for another stop on defense. Instead, it was a tie game with all the momentum rolling in the Tide’s direction.
Rehashing missed penalties is a difficult task in any sport – football is a game of sliding doors where every moment affects every other moment that comes after until the final whistle blows. Still, it’s impossible not to imagine that had the officials been just a little sharper on Monday night and called any one of these three moments in the game correctly, the Bulldogs could have held on to win their first national championship since 1980.
Instead, the reign of Alabama continues for yet another year.