These clutch performers for the Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs showed up in the biggest game yet in the 2020 college football season.
While the 2020 college football season was exciting through the first six weeks, it all felt a bit like a prelude to Week 7 when the Georgia Bulldogs went on the road to Bryant-Denny Stadium to face the Alabama Crimson Tide. The matchup between the No. 3 and 2 teams in the country, respectively, was not only a possible SEC Championship Game preview but a College Football Playoff preview as well.
In a similar script to previous meetings between Kirby Smart‘s Bulldogs and Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, Georgia jumped out to a first-half advantage after trading blows with Alabama. But after leading 24-20 at halftime, the Dawgs had no answers on either side of the ball in the second half. In the simplest terms, the Crimson Tide’s playmakers stepped up in the biggest moments while the Bulldogs’ did not. The end result was an emphatic 41-24 victory for Bama.
While Alabama as a whole showed up huge in the second half when they were needed the most, there were several standouts — in addition to one from Georgia — who earned the distinction of being a clutch performer. Let’s dive into the five most clutch performances from this marquee college football matchup.
Clutch Performer No. 5: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Throughout his illustrious career in Tuscaloosa, running back Najee Harris has certainly had better games than he did against Georgia, which stands to reason given the caliber of the Dawgs defense. That being said, the former 5-star recruit delivered the exact performance that he needed to help propel the No. 2 team in the nation to a massive victory.
Harris finished the night with 152 rushing yards on 31 carries with a touchdown along with one reception for 10 yards. More than that, though, Harris was a back-breaker for Georgia. He consistently picked up crucial first downs or chunks of yardage that slowly squeezed the life out of the Bulldogs. So while he may not have rewritten the record book, Harris’ performance was critical to the Crimson Tide win.
Clutch Performer No. 4: James Cook, RB, Georgia
While running backs Zamir White and Kendall Milton both out-rushed running back James Cook in the Bulldogs offense on Saturday night, Cook gets the nod as a clutch performer. Because when Georgia was trying to set the tone and gain an early advantage, Cook was a vital part of the Dawgs’ success, specifically with his prowess as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
Most notably, Cook got loose early in the second quarter for an 82-yard touchdown that put the Bulldogs up 14-7 over the Tide. That gave his team an early advantage and set the tone — at the time at least — for the offense. Though erratic quarterback play in the second half may have undercut Cook’s efforts, his 100-yard receiving performance out of the backfield put UGA in a position to control the game early on in the action.
Clutch Performer No. 3: Malachi Moore, DB, Alabama
The first half was relatively rough for the Crimson Tide secondary as, when Stetson Bennett IV was able to get the ball through raised arms in the trenches, he often found open receivers. Having said that, the secondary came up with some big plays and there wasn’t one more clutch than that of Malachi Moore in the third quarter.
After the Crimson Tide had just taken a 27-24 lead, the Bulldogs were driving once again to try and either tie it up or retake the lead. That’s when the pass-rush forced a throw from Bennett that was picked off by Moore. Not only did he change possession but he flipped field position as well, returning the pick 42 yards to set the Tide up in great field position. Alabama was then able to capitalize to take a 34-24 lead.
Clutch Performer No. 2: Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, WRs, Alabama
Moore’s interception may go down as the play that fully gave the Crimson Tide the advantage in this game to lock up the win but it was the previous drive that got things started, largely thanks to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. He’s always been lightning-in-a-bottle but, on a beautiful play design, he electrified as he left his cover man stumbling behind him before breaking off a 90-yard touchdown to give Alabama their first lead (27-24) since they opened up a 7-0 advantage.
But Waddle wasn’t alone in this as his partner in crime, DeVonta Smith, starred as well. Both Crimson Tide wide receivers ended up with over 160 yards receiving and combined for 17 receptions and three touchdowns on the night. Against the best defense that they’ll see all season in the SEC, the dynamic wideout duo looked completely unfazed as the dominated.
Clutch Performer No. 1: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The first play from scrimmage on Saturday night saw Alabama quarterback Mac Jones throw an interception. Going up against an elite defense, that seemingly set an ominous tone for what could be coming. Instead, Jones shrugged it off and continued to raise his star with a near-pristine performance the rest of the way at the helm of the Alabama offense.
Despite facing plenty of pressure, Jones continued to display top-tier deep-ball prowess and diced up the Georgia secondary. He finished the night going 24-of-32 for 417 yards and four touchdowns with the aforementioned pick. Many wondered how good Jones could be taking over this offense. Well, in the biggest game of the year, he was the best player on the field and showed up when it mattered most. Questions answered.
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