Bryce Young tried to carry Alabama football against Georgia but the burden was too much | Deas

Tommy Deas
The Tuscaloosa News

INDIANAPOLIS — What's a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback to do when his best receivers are gone and he's going against the best defense in college football?

That's the quandary Bryce Young faced in the College Football Playoff championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday.

Alabama football's quarterback came into the game without John Metchie III, the team's leader in receptions, after he went down with a knee injury in the SEC Championship Game. Then Jameson Williams, the Crimson Tide's leader in receiving yards, checked out of the national title game before halftime with a knee injury of his own.

That meant playing the Georgia Bulldogs for more than half a game with 175 catches and more than 2,700 receiving yards vanished from the lineup, if Williams' four receptions for 65 yards before his injury are factored into the equation.

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It can be the kind of moment that defines a player's legacy, even when he's already won college football's highest prize. It was the kind of situation that determines whether a championship will be won or lost.

Young did the best he could, but without his top playmakers he simply couldn't overcome Georgia. He passed for 369 yards and a touchdown but threw two interceptions – one returned for a touchdown to cap Georgia's 33-18 victory.

Young and the Crimson Tide carried a three-point advantage coming into the second half after a kicking contest in a first half that saw neither team able to reach the end zone. That was a big part of the problem. Alabama kicked three field goals in the first half, failing to complete drives.

"We didn't execute," Young said. "And at the end of the day that's on me."

And that's the problem. More than at any time in memory, this year's Alabama offense has run through the quarterback: neither Jalen Hurts nor Tua Tagovailoa nor Mac Jones were asked to carry their teams the way Young has.

The run game wasn't strong enough to take pressure off of Young. The receiver room wasn't deep enough to have another player step up to more significantly mitigate the loss of production without Williams and Metchie available, and there were costly drops of balls that could have made a difference. Tight ends made catches here and there, but didn't develop as dependable alternatives. The offensive line didn't win consistently, as Young was sacked four times. 

The defense held for a while, but eventually caved to Georgia's attack.

Those things put it all on Young's shoulders. He passed 57 times, completing 35. 

That's a compliment to the cool California kid who didn't blink when Alabama needed to rally in the final moments to tie Auburn and then overcome the Tigers in overtime. It's also a burden. Even when he had healthy weapons around him, he was asked to do too much.

Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Alabama offensive lineman Chris Owens (79) and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) leave the field after the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Georgia defeated Alabama 33-18. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Young kept battling even as Georgia took control in the later stages of the game. It's easy to expect a star player to overcome any and all obstacles, but sometimes the plays just aren't there to be made: the opponent is too good, the help isn't there, it's just not his night.

That was the case this time. Alabama, which usually gets showered in confetti and gets to hoist the trophies, had to watch Georgia do it.

Young was powerless to do anything about it.

"I love my guys, every one of them, both sides of the ball. I wish I could have been better for them tonight," he said.

Tommy Deas is Alabama sports editor for the USA TODAY Network and leader of the SEC coverage cross-team. Follow him on Twitter @tommydeas.

Tennessean sports writer Tommy Deas  Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn.