Josh Jacobs was not the pregame star attraction for Alabama.
He was the Crimson Tide’s third-leading rusher this season coming into Saturday’s SEC Championship Game against Georgia. The junior wasn’t one of Bama’s All-Americans, certainly not the team’s Heisman Trophy frontrunner. He and Irv Smith were both 3-star recruits in the Tide’s typically loaded 2016 recruiting class.
Nobody’s overlooking him anymore.
All Jacobs did against the No. 4 Bulldogs was quietly become the Most Valuable Player of Alabama’s 35-28 victory.
It has been a long path to earn such an honor.
“Every game just feels like a dream,” Jacobs told CBS after being named MVP. “To be on this stage, know that my family and my son back home is watching me, it’s always special.”
Jacobs ran 8 times for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns for No. 1 Alabama against Georgia’s stifling defense. He has only had more rushing yards in four career games and his 10.4-yard average was a career best in a game with more than three carries. Including Saturday he has 94 carries for 495 yards — but, perhaps tellingly, he now leads the team with 13 touchdowns (11 rushing, 2 receiving).
His first touchdown Saturday was simple enough, a 1-yard plunge on the first play of the second quarter. Jacobs’ 13-yard run on second and 10 two plays earlier got the Crimson Tide within the shadow of the goal posts.
But Jacobs really made things happen on perhaps Alabama’s most important touchdown drive of the season. With the Crimson Tide trailing 21-7, and starting on their own 25-yard line, Jacobs tore off a 59-yard run to the Georgia 16.
After Damien Harris ran 12 yards to the Bulldogs’ 1, Jacobs got the call. He was stopped short of the end zone and fumbled, but recovered the ball and had possession for a touchdown.
He and Alabama can thank instant replay for the score. Officials initially ruled that Jacobs did not have possession in the end zone and that Georgia recovered the ball for a touchback. But video review correctly ruled that Jacobs recovered and controlled the ball in the end zone.
Had the call not been reversed, who knows what might have happened? Georgia scored the first touchdown of the second half to take a 28-14 lead; had the Bulldogs led 28-7 instead, the Dawgs might have had enough of a lead to hang on.
Jacobs also had a crucial 3-yard run on a fourth-quarter drive, converting a 3rd-and-1 play at the Georgia 9. A few plays later, backup quarterback Jalen Hurts hit Jerry Jeudy for the touchdown which tied the score at 28-28.
That was Jacobs’ last carry of the game, but his contribution was plenty significant.
Jacobs made his mark and drew praise earlier this season with a 97-yard performance against Mississippi State in November.
Damien Harris and Najee Harris have gotten the bulk of the work in the Crimson Tide’s three-pronged rushing attack this season. And it’s fair to say Bama fans will long remember Hurts’ performance coming off the bench in Atlanta.
But if not for Josh Jacobs, the Tide might never have been in position to remain unbeaten and dethrone Georgia as SEC champions.
Nothing quiet about that.