Raekwon Davis was dancing, even though he didn’t have a reason to.
The 6-foot-7, 316-pound defensive lineman was bouncing up and down, waving his arms, and playfully slapping his teammates’ helmets as he stood around Georgia’s 5-yard line.
Despite having been on the field for over 20 minutes already, despite his team trailing by two touchdowns with 6:48 left in the third quarter, Davis was jumping around with a new-found sense of energy.
The dancing stopped when Georgia took the field. Davis and the rest of Alabama’s defense had one thing on their mind:
“Get my offense back the ball and let them execute,” Davis said.
And that’s what they did, forcing the Bulldogs offense and a red-hot Jake Fromm to the sideline after just three plays.
“It was just our mindset, to stay focused and just do what we do,” Davis said.
It was the first of five straight defensive stops for Alabama, the last of which sealed the Crimson Tide’s 35-28 comeback victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Alabama shut down Georgia when it mattered most, but up until that point, the Crimson Tide’s defense struggled to slow down the Bulldogs.
Although Georgia’s rushing attack was perceived as the bigger threat coming into the game, it was Fromm and the passing game that gouged Alabama early. At one point, Fromm completed 10 straight passes, tied for the most in an SEC Championship game. At halftime, he had 139 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-18 passing. He finished with 301 yards and three touchdowns.
In the third quarter, Georgia’s ground game found its stride as well. Bulldogs running backs D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield began to gash Alabama’s defense for more and more yards.
Everything was working for Georgia’s offense — until Alabama got that first stop.
“We didn’t have the right juice that we needed,” outside linebacker Christian Miller said. “We had to get it going, so that’s what we wanted to do in the second half, we wanted to keep that juice.”
Once Alabama’s defense adjusted and picked up its intensity, Georgia’s offense was unable to move the ball with the same effectiveness.
Although the Crimson Tide allowed 454 yards of total offense, most of it came in the first three quarters. In the fourth, Georgia only mustered 78 yards.
“Knowing that we can play fourth quarters means everything,” defensive lineman Quinnen Williams said. “You just see some teams, those boys are bending over and getting tired. But we work in the offseason on playing in the fourth quarters. It’s all about our standard and Alabama in general. You got to play all four quarters, all 60 minutes.”
Alabama’s defense had to play the entire SEC Championship, down to the last second of the game. As time expired, Fromm launched a Hail Mary into the end zone, but Mack Wilson and several Alabama defenders were there to prevent a miracle by batting the ball away.
“When I heard the fans cheering I didn’t even know who caught it, what happened,” Miller said. “Then I see my teammates celebrating and I just started praying: ‘Lord, thank you. Lord, thank you.’”