Kicking game breakdowns cost Bama

It was a terrible day for the offense and the defense, but the special teams were particularly poor and it cost Alabama a football game Saturday. <br><br>Sixth-ranked Georgia kicked a 33-yard field goal with 38 seconds to play and defeated 22nd ranked Alabama, 27-25, Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

The loss dropped Alabama to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play. Georgia is undefeated in five games and has a 2-0 SEC record.

Alabama is idle this week, although the Tide will host Georgia Military in a junior varsity game at 4 p.m. Thursday. Bama's next action will be Homecoming against Mississippi on October 19. Mississippi defeated Florida, 17-13 Saturday and will play Kentucky next Saturday.

There had been a fear that Alabama's already weak special teams might make the Crimson Tide vulnerable this week because of an injury last week to Lane Bearden. Bearden is Alabama's kickoff man and punter and holder on field goals and extra points. His replacement on kickoffs and punts, Michael Ziifle, did a creditable job, but other aspects of the kicking game were costly.

Alabama missed an extra point kick (which later necessitated a try at a two-point conversion, which failed) and had a field goal blocked. And late in the fourth quarter, after a spectacular interception return for a touchdown by Charlie Peprah that had given Alabama the lead at 25-24 with 8:24 to play, Bama's notoriously poor kickoff coverage provided field position for the Bulldogs. Georgia returned the kick to the Georgia 42-yard line. Although the Tide defense eventually held, a Georgia punt pinned Bama deep. Following a very poor offensive series, Alabama had to punt back to Georgia. Ziifle's only bad punt of the day was low and short (35 yards) and returned 15 yards to the Crimson Tide 34 with 3:45 to play. Georgia picked up enough yards and used over three minutes of the clock and Billy Bennett's second field goal of the game nailed down the first-ever Georgia victory in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Bulldogs improved their record in Alabama's home stadium to 1-7.

On the whole, Ziifle punted very well, six punts for 250 yards, a 41.7 average with a long punt of 58 yards and two punts were downed inside the 10. Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said, "If we had won the game, he would have been the most valuable player."

Franchione said, "It was a hard-fought game against the sixth-ranked team in the nation. We've lost two games to teams ranked in the top six and we've taken them both down to the wire. We just came up a little short."

The coach complimented Georgia's receivers for making big plays. He said, "We didn't get our running game in sync."

Georgia appeared to win the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively. Franchione noted that Georgia's ability to run the ball enabled the Bulldogs to stay two-dimensional offensively.

Franchione said that one thing that hurt was losing a home game a week after the Tide had gone on the road to Arkansas and earned a win.

Alabama did not lead in the game until Peprah's interception. Part of the reason was penalties. Indeed, a penalty against Georgia may have put momentum in Georgia's corner early. An apparent fumble recovery by Tide linebacker Derrick Pope was returned about 75 yards to the Georgia one-yard line, where Alabama would have been expected to get a touchdown. Instead, the officials brought the ball back and stepped off five yards against Georgia for illegal procedure, a penalty that stopped the play. Moments later Georgia got a 15-yard run from Musa Smith for a 7-0 lead. Alabama had a penalty on a 42-yard Ray Hudson touchdown run, and the Tide eventually settled for only a field goal.

Ziifle got Alabama's first points with a 47-yard field goal, but Brian Bostick did the rest of the placekicking. Bostick made one of two extra point kicks and a 37-yard field goal that pulled Alabama to within 17-12 entering the fourth quarter.

Georgia's Fred Gibson made a sensational catch of a David Greene 42-yard pass for Georgia's second touchdown and a 14-0 lead. Bama got that score back in the final minute of the first half as Brodie Croyle connected with Dre Fulgham on a 30-yard touchdown pass. After the point after touchdown kick failed, the Bulldogs had a 14-9 halftime lead.

The teams swapped third quarter field goals to make it 17-12 going to the final stanza. Georgia went up by 12 points when Greene hit Terrance Edwards on a 37-yard touchdown pass.

With Shaud Williams making a clutch first down run, Alabama was able to drive back , Croyle diving in from a yard out to pull Bama to within 24-19 with 9:27 to play.

A minute later Greene threw to the sideline. His receiver got his hands on the ball, but it popped loose and Peprah picked it off. He ran it back 35 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, a 25-24 lead. Croyle's dive for the goal line came up short on the two-point conversion try.

Georgia had the advantage statistically. The Bulldogs had 22 first downs (nine rushing, 11 passing, two by penalty) to 16 for Alabama (six rush, nine pass, one penalty). Georgia had 42 rushing attempts for 161 yards, Alabama 37 runs for 109 yards. The Bulldogs completed 15 of 27 passes with two interceptions for 224 yards. Alabama's Croyle completed 16 of 29 passes with one interception (coming in the final minute of the game) for 197 yards. Georgia had 69 plays for 385 yards, an average of 5.6 yards per play. Bama had 66 plays for 306 yards, an average of 4.6 per play.

Both teams had one fumble and lost it, and they came within seconds of each other to start the second half. After Hirchel Bolden recovered a Georgia fumble to set the Tide up at the Bulldogs' 16, Croyle fumbled it back to Georgia on the next play.

Alabama came into the game as the best rushing team in the SEC (and seventh best in the nation), but the Crimson Tide running game was anemic against Georgia. Hudson was the Tide leader with three runs for 45 yards while Shaud Williams had 10 runs for 44 yards and Santonio Beard only 23 yards on 15 carries.

Williams caught six passes for 44 yards, while Fulgham had three receptions for 63 yards. Clint Johnston had three receptions for 33 yards.


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