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December 1, 2012

Tide recovers after blocked field goal

ATLANTA | During the emotional postgame celebration of a hard-fought 32-28 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs for the Southeastern Conference championship, Alabama special teams coordinator Bobby Williams took a moment to remove his hat, wipe his brow and breathe a sigh of relief.

In a back-and-forth affair that had both teams exchanging body blows and haymakers, it appeared for a moment in the third quarter a special teams breakdown might be the pivotal moment that prevented the Crimson Tide from winning its 23rd SEC title and earning another berth in the BCS National Championship Game.

"Whew," Williams said as he received congratulatory hugs from players, family members and coaches.

With Georgia holding a 14-10 lead, an Alabama drive fizzled at the Bulldogs' 32-yard line and Cade Foster trotted out to attempt a 49-yard field goal.

The snap went high, the kick went low and somewhere in the chaos Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree found the ball and saw an open field ahead of him.

"We'll have to look at the film to see (what happened)," Foster said. "I wasn't too sure if (Georgia) just came through the middle or I was slow to the ball. Something was off with the operation, and they just blew through the middle. We'll have to see it in the film and correct it for when we play Notre Dame."

Ogletree picked up the errant kick with 21 players behind him and the half of the Georgia Dome crowd that was adorned in red and black cheering him on to a 55-yard touchdown return.

The startling turn of events left the Alabama fans stunned as the Bulldogs increased their lead to 21-10 with 6:31 remaining in the third quarter. It was the first time in the game a team had taken a two-score advantage.

"When I saw that No. 9 running down the field with a blocked field goal, I said, 'Yeah, that's a problem,' " Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "It was a problem the way we blocked the field-goal protection, so that he blocked it, and it was a problem that they ran it for a touchdown and we got behind by 11 points."

Despite the momentum-changing play, Foster never lost faith in his teammates and watched with pride as the Crimson Tide methodically and physically powered its way back from the deficit.

"I wasn't nervous," Foster said. "We're a resilient team and I knew we would come back, and if it came down to me at the end I was ready and I believe in myself."

The drama lasted until the last second ticked off the clock as Georgia mounted a late drive that ended at the Alabama 5-yard line as time expired.

Foster, who didn't get another field-goal attempt, did neutralize the Bulldogs on kickoffs with five touchbacks.

When the confetti started falling and the fireworks exploded, Foster made sure to find his mother, who made the trip from Texas, in the stands for a much-needed embrace.

With the SEC title now secured, Foster knows the final hurdle looms ahead as the Crimson Tide prepares for a showdown with top-ranked and unbeaten Notre Dame.

"It feels surreal," Foster said. "We've worked for it all along. It's just another step in our journey, our process, and we're about to head to Miami and face a great Notre Dame team."

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