By JOHN ZENOR
Bryce Young couldn’t deliver another spectacular practice with his top two wide receivers watching from the sidelines.
Not with the best defense in the country.
The Alabama sophomore saw his Heisman Trophy-winning season end with a last-minute pick of six in a 33-18 loss to Georgia in the National Football Playoff Championship game university Monday night in Indianapolis.
All-American Jameson Williams injured his left knee in the first half and did not return, joining compatriot 1,000-yard wide receiver John Metchie III on the Alabama injured list. Missing two of its greatest playmakers, the offense has only found the end zone once.
“J-Mo has been a great player for us all year,” said Tide coach Nick Saban. “He made a lot of explosive plays. And I think every time you lose players like him and John Metchie it definitely has an impact on how you can perform offensively.
Saban said he would not know the extent of Williams’ injury until he had an MRI. The junior and projected first-round pick wanted to get back into the game.
“He actually wanted to play in the second half and the medics wouldn’t let him, which I think was smart because he has a future as a football player,” Saban said.
Young pushed the Crimson Tide through the midfield for the last two minutes before Kelee Ringo picked up an underground pass intended for substitute Traeshon Holden and sent her back 79 yards for the decisive touchdown.
Stuck catching up in the fourth quarter, Alabama could have desperately used one of their best receivers.
Williams’ injury took away the nation’s biggest deep threat and the possibility of shooting the speedster with four touchdowns of at least 70 yards.
“Losing someone like J-Mo is tough, but that’s been a theme for us, it’s overcoming adversity,” Young said. “A lot of guys came in for a big time.
“I’m extremely proud of the way we’ve played offensively and the way people have improved. I am extremely proud of the way everyone around me played. It’s up to me to perform better.
Young finished his first season as a starter at 35 of 57 for 369 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions and was his own biggest critic.
“I’m just proud of my guys,” Young said. “I love my guys, each of them on both sides of the ball. I just wish I could have been better for them tonight.
Williams had four catches for 65 yards after a performance of seven catches, 184 yards and two touchdowns in the SEC title game against the Bulldogs.
Metchie was absent with a knee injury suffered in the first half of that first meeting. They had been Young’s go-to receivers all season.
Without his favorite targets, Young was left with less experienced targets like Agiye Hall, Ja’Corey Brooks, and Holden. All are talented, but all are quite green in comparison.
When Alabama took over eight minutes behind at one point, Young threw an incompleteness at Hall and a pass to Slade Bolden was interrupted.
He crossed the midfield with a 12-yard pass to tight end Cameron Latu before two failures to Brooks and the fateful choice. Brooks had the biggest catch of the season late in the season against Auburn, when Young ran the 97 yards at Crimson Tide to force overtime.
The offense had to be content with five attempts to place Will Reichard on Monday. He made four and blocked 48 yards at the end of the third quarter.
Latu had five catches for 102 yards and a 3-yard touchdown.
But Alabama felt the loss of Young’s greatest playmaker.
“Everyone’s ready to jump in because you never know when you’re going to take your next shot,” Bolden said. “So I feel like everyone did a pretty good job. And we just couldn’t make the plays and we couldn’t finish tonight. And that’s the story of it.