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Alabama linebacker and Decatur High grad Rolando McClain pressures Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford in the first half of Georgia’s 26-23 overtime victory in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night.
AP photo by Rob Carr
Alabama linebacker and Decatur High grad Rolando McClain pressures Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford in the first half of Georgia’s 26-23 overtime victory in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night.

Not so
perfect, after all

In overtime, Georgia hands Saban first loss as Tide coach

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — So ends the perfect season.

Just as it seemed as if Alabama would make another fourth-quarter comeback under first-year coach Nick Saban, the Georgia Bulldogs found a way to win in overtime.

Bulldogs quarterback Matthew Stafford found wide receiver Mikey Henderson on a 25-yard pass play to give Georgia the 26-23 victory over Alabama.

The catch silenced the crimson majority of the crowd of 92,138, who had screamed full-throat just a few minutes earlier.

“This was one of those games,” Tide center Antoine Caldwell said. “I thought we were well-prepared. We did pretty much exactly what we went over as a team. I tip my hat to those guys.”

Alabama had tied the game at 20 with 1:09 remaining in regulation, and then the Tide got the first possession of overtime, and didn’t gain anything on three plays before settling for Leigh Tiffin’s 42-yard field goal.

The Bulldogs scored the touchdown on their first play from scrimmage.

The loss was the first for Saban as coach of the Crimson Tide and ends the euphoric weeklong celebration of last week’s win against Arkansas. Alabama now has to prepare to play Florida State in Jacksonville, Fla.

With 4:44 remaining in the fourth quarter and Alabama down 20-13, the Crimson Tide (3-1, 2-1 SEC) embarked on an 11-play, 89-yard drive.

Quarterback John Parker Wilson finished the drive with a 6-yard scramble. Tiffin’s extra point tied the game at 20.

For the night, Wilson completed 17 of 35 passes for 185 yards. He also rushed for two touchdowns.

Alabama trailed 20-10 before starting a rally with about 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Georgia’s Mikey Henderson (27) catches the game-winning touchdown over Tide defender Lionell Mitchell in overtime in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night. Georgia won 26-23.
AP photo by Rob Carr
Georgia’s Mikey Henderson (27) catches the game-winning touchdown over Tide defender Lionell Mitchell in overtime in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night. Georgia won 26-23.
The Crimson Tide started its comeback attempt on its own 34-yard line. Alabama marched toward Tiffin’s 22-yard field goal, eight of its 13 plays being rushing plays.

The drive was aided by a pass interference play on Georgia cornerback Prince Miller on a fourth-and-seven pass from the Georgia 34-yard line to DJ Hall. This kept the drive alive and once again put Alabama in position for a comeback.

“I am very proud of the way the team responded and played in the second half,” Saban said. “We came back in the game on several occasions and had an opportunity to have a chance to win the game in overtime.”

Most disconcerting to Saban was Alabama’s difficulty throughout the game keeping drives alive as evidenced by its 3-of-15 third-down conversion rate.

“I think the biggest difference in the game (was) in terms of time of possession and the ability to keep the ball,” Saban said. “We were only 3-of-15 on third down on the other end, which was an issue for us and we were able to keep drives going.”

The Crimson Tide finished with 348 total yards on offense, its lowest total of the season.

There were times when Georgia’s offense, balanced with Stafford and running backs Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno, kept drives going. Moreno had 70 yards on 16 carries, while Brown had 73 yards on 20 carries and Georgia was 9 of 19 on third down conversions.

Alabama came out flat in the first half, a display that Saban described as “the worst we played all year long.”

Neither team was able to get an edge as Alabama used a variety of blitz packages to confuse the Georgia offense.

The Crimson Tide had 145 yards. But Alabama’s gains were in some ways a mirage.

The Crimson Tide got the ball on its 31-yard line with 44 seconds remaining and engineered a 10-play, 46-yard drive that culminated in a Tiffin 40-yard field goal. It was Alabama’s only points of the half as the Tide trailed 10-3 after the first 30 minutes.

“Any time you can come in and play a top 20 team at their home stadium and withstand the fourth quarter surge, then win in overtime, it is a tremendous thing for our team,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

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