ATLANTA — A season to remember for Georgia receiver Ladd McConkey continued Saturday, with the redshirt freshman out of North Murray High School snagging a 32-yard touchdown catch in the 41-24 loss to Alabama.
McConkey's scoring reception was his fifth this season, and it pulled the Bulldogs into a 17-17 tie with 2:06 before halftime of the Southeastern Conference championship game.
"I made the play, but if you really go back and watch, it had a lot to do with all the other guys in there," the 6-foot, 185-pounder said. "They did a great job blocking for me, and I was thankful to have them there."
His touchdown would be Georgia's only score in Alabama's stunning 38-7 surge that turned a 10-0 deficit early in the second quarter into a 38-17 lead early in the fourth. Both teams threw the ball effectively inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with Bryce Young tallying 421 aerial yards and Stetson Bennett 340, but Bennett's two interceptions proved costly.
Saturday's game had more points than expected, with McConkey's score not nearly enough to counter Alabama's dominant stretch.
"You've really just got to see how a game plays out, because you never know exactly how it's going to unfold," McConkey said. "Obviously they're a great team, so they're going to make plays, and we're a great team, so we're going to make plays. When somebody hits a big play on you, you can't get down.
"You've got to keep the same mindset."
Bennett has now thrown five interceptions the last two seasons against Alabama, including the three he had in Tuscaloosa a year ago in what was also a 41-24 loss.
"The first one today was a bad decision," Bennett said. "The second one, I didn't see the safety driving. You can't have those two plays against players like this. They made us pay for it."
Said McConkey: "Stetson is a great player who has a great mindset. This is not going to faze him."
Goals still ahead
Georgia has only one SEC championship in the last 16 seasons, but the Bulldogs still have a chance at their first national title since 1980.
"This didn't do any damage," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "What it did is reinvigorate our energy. It recenters you, right? Their greatest thing is when they lost their game against Texas A&M, because they garnered some focus and some attention.
"To me, this is an opportunity for a wake-up call."
When asked what would need to change in a potential Alabama-Georgia rematch in the College Football Playoff, Smart said: "I'd like to review the tape and see it, but my first answer would be to not leave people uncovered. Let's cover them, and then try to win some one-on-ones and get balls down."
With fifth-year senior running back Brian Robinson Jr. nursing a pulled leg muscle this past week, Alabama's running game Saturday was expected to be limited at best.
The Crimson Tide wound up with 115 yards on 26 carries, gaining a respectable 4.4 yards per rush that helped complement Young's big aerial day. Robinson had a team-high 55 yards on 16 carries.
"I think Bryce's scrambles probably contributed to that as much as anything," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "B-Rob being able to play in the game and grind out some tough yards was big for us, and I thought Trey (Sanders) did a good job, but it's got to go back to the offensive line and being a little more physical in this game against a very physical front."
Georgia is now 3-6 in SEC title games. ... The Bulldogs faced their first halftime deficit since trailing 14-10 to Cincinnati in last season's Peach Bowl, a game the Bulldogs rallied to win 24-21. ... Sophomore tight end Darnell Washington collected his first career touchdown reception. ... Senior Jake Camarda had first-half punts of 68 and 64 yards and finished with a 52.5-yard average. ... Brock Bowers had 10 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown, setting an SEC title game productivity record for a tight end.
Alabama increased its series lead to 42-25-4 against the Bulldogs. ... Saban still hasn't lost to a former Tide assistant. ... Young's 286 first-half passing yards and 326 first-half total yards set SEC title game records. ... DeMarco Hellams had nine tackles, one pass breakup and one interception.