27 September 2008
Alabama made a loud statement to the college football world that it is back now,
and a serious national championship contender, with a 41-30 beatdown of the pre-season's top-ranked team, the University of Georgia Bulldogs. John Parker Wilson's 13-16 passing for 205 yards and a touchdown led the Tide to a victory that was nowhere near as close as the final score would have it appear.
Georgia showed a spark of life in the third quarter as the Tide offense struggled, but it was not nearly enough to overcome a dominant first Alabama first half that set the visitors up with a 31-0 halftime lead. And after Prince Miller's 92-yard punt return touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter cut the gap to 31-17, Alabama re-asserted itself with a field goal, a quick stop, and a drive for a 12-yard Glenn Coffee touchdown run with 4:13 left to put the game away. Georgia added two garbage-time touchdowns to create the final score.
Georgia at least partially lived up to its billing as the nation's stingiest rushing defense by holding Alabama's powerful ground attack to 129 yards on the night and a 2.9 yards per carry average, but Georgia's pre-occupation with the run left large gaps in the secondary which Wilson exploited with accurate passing throughout the opening stanza.
The Tide scored on all five of its first-half possessions and Wilson's downfield passing was instrumental to each drive. Wilson hit Julio Jones with two 13-yarders on the first touchdown drive; hit Nikita Stover with a 14-yarder to which 15 more was tacked on for a roughing-the-passer penalty on the second drive, leading to a field goal; found Jones downfield for 31 yards to set up a short Coffee touchdown run on Bama's third drive; hit Mike McCoy for 12- and 10-yarders to set up a five-yard Roy Upchurch TD on the Tide's fourth drive; and hit Jones in stride in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard strike on Alabama's final first-half possession. Jones finished the night with 94 yards and the TD on five receptions.
A series of costly penalties also cost the Dogs dearly in the first half. For the night, Georgia was penalized ten times for 81 yards, while the seldom-whistled-against Tide committed only two penalties for a single-digit total of nine yards.
Meanwhile, Matt Stafford consistently showed the accurate rifle arm that will make him a high NFL draft pick, but threw quickly most of the night as Bama frequently got a strong pass-rush push without blitzing. But it was the Tide defensive backs who were the real stars of the night defensively, as they managed to deny completions on accurately thrown downfield balls numerous times through the night.
Overall, white-clad defensive backs broke up an impressive six passes. Justin Woodall led the way, adding a pick and a forced fumble, which was plucked out of the air by Don'ta Hightower, to his five tackles and one nifty break-up.
Georgia was forced to the air in the second half by Alabama's big early lead. When he was given his chances, Georgia's vaunted - and vaulting - Knowshon Moreno ran hard but could never get untracked. The Tide held Moreno to 34 yards on nine carries, while Coffee led Bama with 86 yards and two scores on 23 totes. Upchurch and Mark Ingram also added scores.
Anybody who thinks this Alabama team has not been one of the best teams in the country so far this young season just hasn't been watching.