But even after giving up a negative Alabama record 37 points in the first half, and having to play much of the game with inexperienced quarterbacks, the Crimson Tide fought the good fight.
Most notable absentee for Alabama was first team quarterback Brodie Croyle. Croyle, who had nursed a shoulder injury through most of the week, was given only one opportunity to play against Georgia. Coming in midway through the second quarter and Alabama trailing 30-3, Croyle lasted only two plays before going back out. He was hit on a pass play and went down with what appeared to be a re-injury of the shoulder. Croyle spent the second half on the sidelines dressed in a warm-up suit with his left arm in a sling.
To make matters worse, relatively untested quarterback Spencer Pennington, who started the game, went down with what also appeared to be a shoulder injury midway through the third quarter. Redshirt freshman Brandon Avalos, who had never taken a snap in an Alabama game, played the last quarter and a half.
Alabama trailed by 37-10 at halftime, but got one touchdown from the defense and one from special teams in the second half. Bama’s offensive playbook was cut down to perhaps one-third with Avalos at quarterback. He rarely gets a practice snap. It was no surprise that Alabama’s last real offensive chance – a fourth down play from the Georgia 34 – was a broken play, the receiver turning in, the pass going out and incomplete. Bama would have one last futile series in the final two minutes.
The game was Alabama’s first road contest of the season. Bama, now 2-4 and 1-1 in Southeastern Conference games, returns to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa for Homecoming Saturday. Kickoff against non-conference foe Southern Mississippi will be at 2 p.m. CDT with the only television coverage Alabama’s pay-per-view package. Alabama has now lost three games in a row.
Although several players in addition to Bama’s quarterbacks were injured in the game, it was not so much the physical play as the finesse play by Georgia quarterback David Greene that was the difference in the game.
Alabama did all the second half scoring. After the Tide defense had done a good job starting the second half, field position was in Bama’s favor. And Alabama made it pay off when a Bulldogs’ pass went to Tide safety Charles Jones at the Georgia 30 and he took it back for a touchdown. It was Jones’ second interception of the game.
Alabama’s defense forcing a Georgia punt was instrumental in the final score of the game. The Georgia punter was unable to handle the snap and Tide linebacker Juwan Garth scooped up the loose ball at the Georgia 10-yard line and took it in for the score. Brian Bostick, who missed the extra point kick after Jones’ touchdown, kicked the final point of the game. The touchdown came on the third play of the fourth quarter. Over 14 minutes remained.
Saturday’s game started well for the Tide with Jones turning in an interception on the second play of the contest. He ran it back 33 yards to Georgia’s 36, but the Bama offense was unable to move, Alabama settled for a 42-yard field goal by Bostick, who had missed a game-winning 38-yard effort a week ago.
Although Alabama’s defense could never halt Georgia in the first half, the Tide stop troops managed to limit the Bulldogs to three Billy Bennett field goals for awhile as Georgia built a 9-3 lead. Then the Bama special teams unraveled. A Bo Freelend punt was blocked for a Georgia touchdown to make it 16-3. Alabama gambled on its next possession and was unable to convert a quarterback sneak for inches on a fourth down play. It took the Bulldogs only a few plays to get a touchdown to go up 23-3.Then Alabama’s Ramzee Robinson fumbled the kickoff after that touchdown and moments later it was 30-3. It had taken fewer than six minutes for Georgia to expand a six-point lead to a 27-point advantage.
Alabama showed some offensive spark following the injury to Croyle. Pennington completed five passes in a stretch of seven plays for 80 yards. He hit Dre Fulgham on an 18-yard pass for the touchdown that made the score 30-10. The first play in that march was a 25-yard pass to Triandos Luke on second and 20, Alabama’s first first down of the game, coming with 6:28 in the second quarter. Unfortunately, seconds after the Alabama defense forced the first Georgia punt of the half, Pennington fumbled the shotgun snap, Georgia recovered at the Alabama 29, and the Bulldogs punched in a final touchdown before intermission, to lead 37-10. At the half Alabama had five first downs and 90 yards of offense, Georgia 16 first downs and 297 yards of offense. Georgia had run 51 plays, Alabama 25.
Final statistics were also heavily weighted in Georgia’s favor, but in the second half the Bulldogs were held to only five first downs and had only one scoring chance – a botched 41-yard field goal effort in the fourth quarter. For the game Georgia had 21 first downs, Alabama 12. Georgia had 44 rushes for 96 yards, Alabama 31 carries for 94 yards. The Bulldogs completed 24 of 43 passes for 274 yards and had two interceptions, while Bama hit 11 of 29 passes for 115 yards with one interception. Georgia had 87 plays for 370 yards, 4.3 yards per play, and Alabama had 60 plays for 209 yards, 3.5 yards per play. Alabama was penalized only three times for 30 yards, while the Bulldogs were flagged 11 times for 99 yards. Alabama was able to convert only two of 13 third down plays and only one of four fourth down attempts.
Shaud Williams had 15 carries for 58 yards and Ray Hudson seven runs for 42 yards. Pennington completed nine of 20 passes (and suffered the interception) for 109 yards, while Avalos was two-of-eight for six yards. Croyle was incomplete on his lone try. Fulgham had four catches for 41 yards, Triandos Luke two for 33 yards.
Roman Harper led Bama defensively with six primary tackles and five assists. Juwan Garth was in on eight tackles, including a 10-yard sack, and had the fumble recovery for a touchdown. In addition to his two interceptions, Jones had two pass deflections and was in on five tackles.