Bulldogs sleepwalk through second half

ATHENS - Who let the Dogs out? And who let the Tide out? No, really, who was in charge of keeping the locker room doors barricaded at halftime and making sure there was no second half?

Here, Georgia showed 30 minutes of football that calmed fears, increased hysteria, and legitimized the Bulldogs as an SEC favorite and contender for the national championship.

They were more smooth and efficient than spectacular, almost clinical at times. A few new plays and adjustments made an appearance, and there was some bounce all over the place.

Alabama was roadkill.

Then, with the 37-10 halftime score burned into their brains, Georgia came out in the second half and, well, showed up.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt offered the normal "happy with any win in the SEC" observation, yet clearly with some exasperation in his voice.

"I'll have to remind myself of that when I watch the second half."

It was enough to send him into hippie-speak.

"I don't know about y'all," he said in the post-game press conference, "but the second half was a downer to me."

Yes, Coach, it was a downer. This game came to a crashing halt, as even Richt felt. It was like Thomas Davis hit it, for when the sophomore Bulldog hits somebody, they stop.

A Thomas Davis-like ghost powdered the game after halftime. And how ironic.

The halftime festivities were goose-bump material no matter your allegiance or lack of allegiance.

Capt. Chris Carter and Lt. Col. Flip de Camp, a pair of UGA grads and Bulldog fans, were on hand. They became part of Bulldog lore by unfurling a Georgia flag in Baghdad in front of the Presidential Palace.

Their story was told again, and Sanford went nuts. They unfurled the flag, and Sanford went nuts. The big video screen showed a TV interview of them, and Sanford went nuts.

Then the second half started, and Georgia's offense played like the sharp green turf had turned to Crimson jello.

Georgia wasn't so much inept as it was drowsy. There was no inspiration on the field, nor much from the play-calling list on the sideline.

Richt confessed firing off a round in the Bulldogs' shooting of themselves in the paws with a second half of play-calling that was a little too close to his offense's execution.

"The first series, I mean, you can put that one on me, for sure," he said of a wretched start in the third quarter. "We ran a few plays that we did not run all week. One of 'em we just invented at halftime.

"Being real geniuses."

Richt still comes up with some head-scratching strategies within a game. Of course, they're usually overshadowed by the good stuff, like that first half, when everything clicked.

Then came halftime, where Richt warned his team about sleepwalking through the second half.

"We had such a great first half," said Tyson Browning, who is Georgia's best tailback. "I believe we got a little full of ourselves."

It took Richt five minutes of third-quarter action to see enough. About five minutes into the third quarter, Richt had had enough. He gathered the offense together and let loose.

"He wants to finish a team off," explained quarterback David Greene, owner of an up-and-down day with more interceptions than touchdowns. "He was telling us, 'You know, we gotta pick it up.' We can't play the way we were playing.

"I think it was pretty obvious we were flat when we came out in the second half."

Blood pressure checks should've been administered.

Fullback Jeremy Thomas, shockingly the day's big-play receiver for the Bulldogs, said Richt was hacked.

"He was pretty upset," said the junior from Loganville. "He showed a little emotion over there. He's a calm guy, but he was pretty upset."

Unfortunately for Georgia, it didn't work. Greene was picked off for a touchdown a few minutes later, then a sack helped kill another drive.

And a rout over Alabama - this could've been 50-10 - became a momentum-killing struggle.

"If you're going to be a championship team," Thomas said, "you can't play like that. We'll move on, but I'm sure he'll remind us of the flatness Monday when we do our sprints."

And that lovely first half aside, there will be sprints.

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