Alabama Cruises Past Georgia, Returns to National Title Contention
ATHENS, Ga. -- It wasn't a "Blackout" game, but it was still a decisive, early knockout all the same.
The winner by unanimous decision? Alabama.
Just like the last time at Sanford Stadium.
The 13th-ranked Crimson Tide needed only the first half to dish out a powerful blow, before toying with an outmatched Georgia in the latter stages for a 38-10 win Saturday.
"I told them before the game that the plan that we had for them, ordinary men couldn't go out there and get it done," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "We needed them to be extraordinary and that they were."
At the least, Alabama showed it's capable of such a level.
And Saban himself was among those who was taking it all in well postgame.
"I know they've been criticized a lot, but I thought we played an outstanding game today, every part of the game," said Saban, who ran over to acknowledge the Alabama student section after the win.
But at least in this setting, the result wasn't necessarily new.
It's the second time in seven years Alabama has seen a similar result against the Bulldogs in Athens. In the Crimson Tide's most recent regular-season meeting there, in 2008, Alabama won 41-30 after building up a 31-0 halftime lead.
That 2008 game was also the last time Alabama was deemed an underdog by oddsmakers in a regular-season game until Saturday's contest, when the Crimson Tide was listed as a two-point underdog for most of the week.
"We got whipped," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We all know it and we've got to do something about it. We'll watch the film and face the truth and look at ways we can improve. We as coaches have to make decisions to do that."
Now, after its most recent win against Georgia (4-1, 2-1 SEC) -- ranked No. 8 nationally heading into Saturday's showdown -- Alabama (4-1, 1-1 SEC) appears right back in the thick of national title contention, just two weeks removed from a setback loss at home against Ole Miss.
Overall, Alabama had not been in an underdog in any game since the 2009 SEC Championship Game, a streak of 72 games.
“We don’t think we’re an underdog in any game we play,” senior cornerback Cyrus Jones said. “But at the same time, it’s not about what outside people say. We know what type of team we have. We just wanted to come in here, make a statement and dominate every phase of the game, and I think we did that.”
Alabama, in many ways, did just that, scoring touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in the team's most complete performance through five games this season.
The Crimson Tide never trailed, but Georgia kept things close for the better part of the first half, tying it at 3-3 on a 27-yard field goal with 12:23 left.
At that point, the floodgates seemingly opened on what was already a rain-soaked day in Athens.
First, Alabama methodically moved its way downfield for a scoring drive capped off by a Derrick Henry 30-yard touchdown.
Then, freshman defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked and recovered a punt for a 1-yard score.
Lastly, just one minute after Fitzpatrick's score, quarterback Jake Coker connected with freshman Calvin Ridley in stride for a 45-yard score to boost Alabama's lead to 24-3 by halftime.
In all, the Crimson Tide would score 35 unanswered points, with 14 more coming on Eddie Jackson's 50-yard interception return and Coker's 2-yard run in the third quarter.
After Jackson's touchdown, followed by even more after Coker's score, Georgia fans headed for the exits in droves. By the end of the game, the stadium was near
"It was a really good win," said Coker, who was making the first true road start of his collegiate career in front of a capacity crowd of 92,746. "We came in feeling confident with the game plan that we had put together. ... It was unbelievable and we had a lot of fun out there."
Coker, to his credit, was one of the team's brightest spots against the Bulldogs, completing 11-of-16 passes for 190 yards and a score.
"Our big thing is to make sure he is comfortable," said left tackle Cam Robinson, who along with the rest of the offensive line, did not give up a sack against Georgia. "If we give him time and give him some rhythm, then he'll be able to play pitch and catch with our playmakers on the other side."
Coker was able to accomplish as much without much trouble, with the freshman, Ridley, serving as his primary target. Ridley, who has since moved into the starting lineup following Robert Foster's shoulder injury suffered against the Rebels, caught five passes for 120 yards, which includes his 45-yard score as well as a reception that went for 50 yards.
On the ground, Henry rushed for 148 yards and a score on 26 carries.
Statistically, Alabama outgained Georgia, 379-299, while owning 34 minutes of possession. The Crimson Tide lost two fumbles in the game but made up for it with four turnovers on defense, three of them interceptions.
A common point of criticism so far this season, Alabama ran the ball 47 times compared to just 16 plays through the air.
"I believe in this team," Saban said. "We've just got to be focused on getting better. This is one game."
Georgia's lone highlight of the game came on sophomore running back Nick Chubb's 83-yard touchdown run with 14 seconds left in the third. With that carry, Chubb was able to surpass the century mark rushing the ball for the 13th straight game, tying Herschel Walker's school record. Ultimately, he had 146 rushing yards on 20 carries.