Sports Outside the Beltway

Alabama Whips Georgia 41-30

Alabama went into Athens a decided underdog against #3 ranked Georgia and stunned everyone with a 31-0 blowout in the first half.  The defense took the second half off, giving up 30 points — it would have been 31 had Georgia not gone for and missed a 2-point conversion.  Thankfully, the offense managed to add another 10 and hold on.

The AP’s Paul Newberry, who either didn’t watch the game or only cared about the outcome rather than the process, saw it much differently than this Alabama fan.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban gestures to the fans as he leaves the field after defeating Georgia 41-30 in an NCAA college football game in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) Forget the blackout. This was an early knockout. Backed by a dominant defense and John Parker Wilson’s accurate passing, No. 8 Alabama raced to a stunning 31-point lead by halftime against self-destructing Georgia and held on to beat the third-ranked Bulldogs 41-30 Saturday night, establishing Nick Saban’s team as a national championship contender in his second season.


Alabama (5-0, 2-0) is poised to move up at least three or four spots when the new poll comes out Sunday, and the Tide certainly looked as impressive as anyone all year in winning decisively on the road against a team that started the season at the top of the heap.

Wilson went 13-of-16 passing for 205 yards and a touchdown, while Glenn Coffee ran for two scores in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score. Georgia scored two touchdowns in the waning minutes.

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 again looks like a program more in keeping with the tradition of Bear Bryant, not Saban predecessor Mike Shula.

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.

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.

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.

Oddly, both Newberry and the ESPN game announcers repeatedly refer to an early pass interference call on Georgia as a critical play in the game.  In reality, that “mistake” was absolutely the right move on the part of the Georgia defender, saving a sure touchdown and forcing Alabama to drive fifteen yards to achieve a result they would otherwise have had easily.

I’m obviously thrilled by the outcome.  After the season opening win, also in Georgia, against then-highly ranked Clemson, I thought this team had a chance to knock off the Bulldogs.  I had no idea, though, that they’d dominate them so thoroughly in the first half.

My only fear is that the second half letdown bodes ill for the team’s ability to focus against some of their lesser opponents in upcoming weeks.  In college, which lacks a playoff system, you can’t have a bad week if you want a shot at a national championship.

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