Worth Every Penny
The Alabama Crimson Tide turned the blackout into a knockout.
Just don't tell Nick Saban that he's got a national championship contender, not even after a decisive victory over third-ranked Georgia.
``After five games?'' Saban said with a tone of disbelief late Saturday night. ``Let's see when we get a full body of work at the end of the season.''
But No. 8 Alabama sure looked as impressive as anyone in this young season by whipping Georgia 41-30, the score not really as close as the final. The Tide raced to a stunning 31-0 lead over the first two quarters, and the Bulldogs managed a couple of cosmetic touchdowns in the waning minutes.
Backed by stout play on both sides of the line and John Parker Wilson's accurate passing, Alabama (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) put this one away before Georgia's ``Redcoat Marching Band'' got on the field for the halftime show.
The Tide scored on its first five possessions.
``That was nice,'' said Wilson, who was 13-of-16 for 205 yards and a touchdown. ``That is what you practice for, that is what you strive to do on every drive.''
Georgia (4-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) became the third team in the top four to fall on a devastating week for ranked teams, joining No. 1 USC and No. 4 Florida in the loss column.
``We just got whipped,'' coach Mark Richt said. ``There's no excuses, and don't expect any from me.''
Alabama is poised to move up at least three or four spots when the new poll comes out Sunday, though Saban isn't concerned about getting to No. 1.
Not yet, anyway.
``It doesn't matter now. It doesn't matter until the end,'' the Tide's $4 million per year coach said. ``We have a lot of good football teams ahead of us.''
Wilson had plenty of time to throw, and freshman Julio Jones was his favorite receiver with five catches for 94 yards, including a touchdown. Glenn Coffee ran for a couple of TDs.
Not even the most optimistic Alabama fan could have expected Saban, who won a national championship at LSU, to turn the Tide so quickly. This looked far more like Bear Bryant's Tide, than Saban predecessor Mike Shula's.
``I'm happy,'' said Saban, who spent much of his post-game news conference berating the Tide's second-half performance. ``I know I don't look happy, but I am.''
Looking for a motivational edge, Georgia came out wearing black jerseys, and most of its fans at 92,000-seat Sanford Stadium also took part in the ``blackout.'' But the biggest cheers came from the white-clad Alabamians sprinkled throughout the massive stands.
Georgia showed some disturbing tendencies even while winning its first four games, and those sure came back to bite the Bulldogs. They were flagged twice in the opening half for roughing the passer, crucial but familiar mistakes for a team that already was the most penalized in the SEC. Also, an offensive line featuring two freshman and two sophomores was no match for Alabama's massive front led by 365-pound Terrence Cody.
``We've got some young pups up there,'' Richt acknowledged.
Knowshon Moreno got only nine carries for 34 yards, and quarterback Matthew Stafford spent much of the game running for his life as Georgia's 11-game winning streak ended. Stafford took a knock to the head and didn't hang around to talk with the media, though Richt said it wasn't serious.
The Bulldogs said it's way too early to give up on a season that started with them at No. 1, but now has gone into recovery mode. They pulled it off a year ago, winning their last seven games to finish second in the rankings.
``It's just the beginning of the season,'' Moreno said. ``You saw last year that anything can happen. This is not the downfall of our team. We can still bounce back.''
The Bulldogs actually made Alabama a little nervous in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, closing to 31-17 on Prince Miller's 92-yard punt return. But the Tide calmly wrapped it up on the next possession, driving 51 yards in eight plays for Leigh Tiffin's second field goal.
The game was really decided before halftime. Alabama took the opening kickoff and pushed 80 yards in 11 plays, benefiting from two Georgia penalties that helped keep the drive moving.
Miller was called for pass interference in the end zone, and there was no excuse for Akeem Dent delivering a blow to Wilson's face, which negated a fumble that Georgia recovered. Two plays later, Mark Ingram scored on a 7-yard run.
The Tide was just getting started.
Georgia was called for two more crucial penalties on the visiting team's next possession - a defensive holding on Miller and another blatant roughing-the-passer penalty, this time on Jarius Wynn. The Bulldogs managed to make the Tide to settle for Tiffin's 23-yard field goal.
After Brian Mimbs shanked a 19-yard punt, Wilson hooked up with Jones for 31 yards and Coffee finished off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown.
The Bulldogs couldn't do anything right. A.J. Green, the freshman receiver coming off a huge game at Arizona State, had the ball stripped away after a catch. Dont'a Hightower, Alabama's star freshman on defense, grabbed it out of the air and started another Tide possession on Georgia's side of the field, this time at the 33.
On third-and-goal at the 4, Roy Upchurch burst up the middle and into the end zone untouched.
Wilson's 22-yard touchdown pass to Jones completed the onslaught and left Georgia with its worst deficit in Richt's eight years as coach.
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