Alabama let its performance do the talking, rolling to a convincing 38-10 win over previously unbeaten and seventh-ranked Georgia on a rainy afternoon in the Peach State. The Tide scored offensively on runs and a pass, defensively on an interception, and with a special teams blocked punt.
Who’s barking now?
Alabama improved its record to 4-1 and evened its SEC record at 1-1 – avoiding starting the league season with an 0-2 mark, which hasn’t happened in a quarter of a century. The Bulldogs fell to 4-1, including a 2-1 conference record.
Alabama returns to Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday with an SEC West Division game against Arkansas. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. CDT with television coverage by ESPN.
Much of the credit for Alabama’s success goes to senior quarterback Jacob Coker, heretofore a somewhat consistent performer. Coker, who has lost his starting job two weeks ago, now surely has a firm hand on those reins.
Coker completed 11 of 16 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown with no sacks and no interceptions. He also had six rushes for 28 yards, including a touchdown.
In addition to Coker completing a 45-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Calvin Ridley and the quarterback running in from two yards out on a bootleg, the Tide got a 30-yard touchdown run from Derrick Henry, a blocked punt for a touchdown by freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick, a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown by Eddie Jackson, and Adam Griffith hitting his only field goal try (29 yards) and all five of his extra point kicks.
Henry led Bama rushers with 26 carries for 148 yards. Ridley was the top receiver in the game with five catches for 120 yards. Richard Mullaney had three catches for 44 yards and Ardarius Stewart 2-24.
The Bama defense was led by linebacker Reggie Ragland and tackle Jarran Reed, both in on eight tackles, and safety Geno Matias-Smith in on seven. Alabama continued its success in batting down balls with Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, and freshman Daron Payne having bat-downs among the seven passes broken up by Bama defenders.Sacks were turned in by Fitzpatrick and Williams.
If there was a statistical disappointment, it was allowing Georgia’s fine tailback Nick Chubb – who had been held in check almost through three quarters – explode for an 83-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third period. Chubb finished with 20 carries for 146 yards. The good news was that his run cut the Alabama lead to the final score of 38-10.
In team statistics, Alabama had 15 first downs to 12 for Georgia. The Tide had 47 rushes for 189 yards, Georgia 38 runs for 193 yards. Bama’s passing was all by Coker, 11-16 for 190 yards. Two Bulldogs combined to completed 11-31 passes with three interceptions for 106 yards.
Alabama had 63 plays for 379 net yards, an average of 6.0 yards per play. Georgia had 69 plays for 299 total yards, an average of 4.3 per play.
Alabama fumbled twice and lost both of them, while the Bulldogs fumbled four times, but lost only one (recovered by Ryan Anderson). Bama was penalized 7 times for 39 yards, the Dogs 8-82.
One interesting statistic was that Alabama had an advantage in time of possession, 34:03 to 25:57. That was a bit surprising because Alabama scored three touchdowns that took a total of only seven seconds of offensive possessions. Fitzpatrick’s punt block and return and Jackson’s interception return for a TD took no offensive time, and the Tide had a one-play drive of Coker to Ridley that took seven seconds.
Third down plays were tough on both teams. Bama was only 1-12 and the Bulldogs only 3-17
The Crimson Tide went to halftime with a 24-3 lead. Alabama’s dominant first half came despite some careless penalties that may have cost even more points, although no one in the Tide camp would complain about the three-touchdown advantage at intermission.
Alabama seemed poised to get a touchdown when Jake Coker hit passes of 50 yards to Calvin Ridley and 24 to Richard Mullaney for a first down at the Georgia 10. But a couple of infractions left the Tide eventually facing fourth-and-goal at the 11 and Adam Griffith kicked Bama to a 3-0 lead with his 29-yard field goal with 4:05 left in the first quarter.
Georgia answered with a field goal to tie the game at 3-3 early in the second quarter. The Bulldogs had a nice drive deep into Alabama territory and kicked a 35-yard field goal. Georgia elected to take the points off the board when Alabama was guilty of roughing the kicker, and the decision nearly backfired. Bama drove the Dogs back to a third-and-goal at the 35-yard line, but quarterback Greyson Lambert connected with a 26-yard completion to Terry Godwin to set up a 27-yard Marshall Morgan field and tie it with 12:23 left in the second quarter.
From there, Alabama had three explosive scoring plays – one rushing, one by special teams, and one passing – to take the 24-3 halftime lead.
Coker mixed in a couple of passes to Ridley (14 yards) and Mullaney (18) to set up a first down at the Georgia 32. Two plays later, Henry went basically untouched through the right side of the Bulldogs defense for a 30-yard TD run. Griffith kicked it to 10-3 with 8:36 until halftime.
After an exchange of punts, Georgia had a punt that wasn’t a fair exchange. Freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick got his second punt block of the season and picked up the ball for the touchdown with 4:48 remaining. It was 17-3.
Bama forced another punt, not a good one, and took over at the Georgia 45. Seven seconds later Ridley ran under a perfect Coker pass to the end zone, the Tide’s third touchdown of the second quarter and, coincidentally, Alabama’s three-touchdown lead.
The defense got the Alabama scoring in the second half with Jackson picked off substitute quarterback Brice Ramsey and returned it 50 yards to make it 31-3. Ramsey had replaced Dogs starter Greyson Lambert. Lambert had been 33 of 35 passing in the last two outings, but was only 10-24 with an interception for 86 yards against the Tide defense.
Frustrated bulldogs had a couple of personal fouls that pushed Bama towards the goalline on the Tide’s next possession. On second-and-goal at the two, Coker faked to Henry, and bootlegged it into the end zone for the final Alabama touchdown with 10:05 remaining in the third quarter.
The rest of the night was spent with little or no threats on the end zone other than Chubb going up the middle on an 83-yard jaunt that kept his streak of 100-yard games alive at 13 in a row, tying the school record held by Herschel Walker.