ATLANTA — A week after setting the record for the longest winning streak in conference history with its 29th straight victory, the top-ranked Georgia football team’s incredible run of success came to an end in the SEC Championship Game.
Facing No. 8 Alabama for the conference title and a probable spot in the College Football Playoff, the Bulldogs came up short, 27-24, inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday night.
It was Georgia’s first loss since falling to the Crimson Tide in the 2021 SEC Championship Game. In between those defeats, the Bulldogs won an SEC-record 29 games in a row, two CFP national championships, and an SEC title last year. Georgia (12-1) has won 45 of its last 47 games.
Georgia was making its third straight appearance in the SEC Championship Game, the sixth in Kirby Smart’s eight seasons as head coach, and the 11th overall since the game made its debut in 1992.
The Bulldogs forced an Alabama (12-1) three-and-out to start the game, and then the Georgia offense went on the attack. On the first play, quarterback Carson Beck hit tight end Brock Bowers for 23 yards. On the next play, Beck connected with wideout Dominic Lovett for 18 yards. Later, Beck found Ladd McConkey for a 15-yard gain, and two plays later, Kendall Milton ran the ball in from the 17-yard line for a 7-0 Georgia lead with 9:31 left in the opening quarter. Beck finished the game 21 of 29 for 243 yards.
Alabama got on the scoreboard with 3:43 to play in the first quarter with kicker Will Reichard’s 43-yard field goal, making it 7-3. The Tide had a second-and-3 at the Bulldog 19 when defensive lineman Christen Miller stuffed a run for a six-yard loss. Georgia’s pass rush disrupted the next play, forcing an incompletion and the field-goal attempt.
The Crimson Tide took a 10-7 lead with 12:04 remaining in the first half, scoring a 28-yard touchdown on Jalen Milroe’s screen pass left to running back Jamarion Miller. The play before, Alabama was able to convert a fourth-and-1 to keep the drive going.
Georgia tried to tie the game on the ensuing drive, but kicker Peyton Woodring’s 50-yard attempt bounced off the right upright and landed in the end zone. It was the freshman’s first miss since September, snapping a streak of 16 field goals in a row.
With 48 seconds left in the half, Alabama took a 17-7 lead on Milroe’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Burton. Two plays earlier, the Tide gained 22 yards on fourth-and-4, down to the Bulldog 15.
Alabama led 17-7 at the half, the second-largest halftime deficit Georgia had faced all season. The Bulldogs trailed South Carolina 14-3 on Sept. 16, before rallying for a 24-14 win. But they weren’t able to complete the rally this time.
On the first play of its second drive of the third quarter, Georgia quickly got into the red zone with a 51-yard completion down the left sideline to wideout Arian Smith, to the Bama 19. The Bulldogs eventually got a 34-yard field goal from Woodring, cutting the Tide’s lead to 17-10, with 8:51 left in the quarter.
Georgia forced another Alabama punt on its next drive, but the Bulldogs fumbled an end-around handoff deep in UGA territory on the ensuing drive, and the Tide recovered at the 11-yard line. The Bulldog defense did its job, holding Bama to a 28-yard field goal, and a 20-10 lead, with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
In the fourth, the Bulldogs forced an Alabama punt, and Anthony Evans III covered 30 yards on the return, down to the Tide 35. Later, Beck hit McConkey for a 15-yard gain down to the 1, and Beck ran the ball in on the next play, cutting the Tide lead to 20-17 with 10:16 remaining in the game.
Alabama didn’t let the momentum swing Georgia’s way for long, marching 75 yards in nine plays and scoring on Roydell Williams’ one-yard run. The score pushed the Tide’s lead to 27-17 with 5:47 to play in the game.
Georgia drove quickly the other way, and had a second-and-goal at the 1 with less than four minutes remaining. It soon after faced a fourth down at the 1 with 2:54 to play. After a timeout, Georgia gave the ball to Milton, who ran it in for the touchdown. Woodring’s extra point made it 27-24 with 2:52 to go. It was Milton’s 11th touchdown run in the past eight games.
Alabama was able to run the ball effectively and run out the clock on the ensuing drive, ending the Bulldogs’ comeback bid and their win streak.
The four teams in the College Football Playoff will be announced Sunday, as well as the teams in the New Year’s Six bowl games. This season, Georgia will extend the nation’s longest active bowl streak to 27 years in a row.