September 22, 2007

No magic this time

Whatever magic Alabama's football team extracted for a comeback victory over Arkansas last week must have dried the well. Another close game at Bryant-Denny Stadium against the Georgia Bulldogs Saturday night required another rabbit from the Crimson Tide's hat.

And this week, the hat was empty.

Georgia (3-1, 1-1 SEC) gave the Nick Saban Era a Alabama its first taste of defeat with a 26-23 overtime win. Matthew Stafford connected with Mikey Henderson on Georgia's first offensive play of overtime for a 25-yard touchdown to end the game after Alabama had settled for a field goal on its initial overtime series.

Saban said Alabama's play in the first half - the Crimson Tide trailed 10-3 at the break - played a key role in the loss.

"There are a lot of lessons to be learned about how we played in the first half of this game," said Saban. "I was concerned about the intensity ... I think it showed in our first-half performance in the game. I think that's the worst we played all year long."

The Bulldogs held possession for 20 of 30 first-half minutes and limited Alabama's offense to three first downs. In fact, it took a half-ending Leigh Tiffin field goal just to get the Crimson Tide on the scoreboard. Georgia's defense stifled the Crimson Tide offense more effectively than any UA opponent this season.

The blitzes that Alabama's offensive line picked up so nicely against Arkansas were significantly more effective for the Bulldogs. The steady harrassment of quarterback John Parker Wilson was more than enough to keep the Crimson Tide's pasing attack out of sync.

"The drive before Alabama scored the final touchdown we were able to stop them inside the 10 and force them to kick the field goal. That was a key stop for the defense," said Georgia coach Mark Richt. "When they did score the touchdown the game was not over."

Wilson finished under 50 percent for the game at 17 of 35 for 185 yards. He did not throw an interception, but was forced from the pocket frequently and missed open receivers.

"We just weren't executing in the first half," Wilson said. "... We could have had a couple of passes that we could have hit."

While Wilson struggled for the second time in three weeks, the Alabama running game was solid again. Terry Grant rushed 11 times for 80 yards, while [db]Glen Coffee led the team in carries for the first time this season (16) in picking up 62 yards. Sophomore Roy Upchurch got the first Southeastern Conference action of his career with two carries for 19 yards, including a key first down in the fourth quarter.

Alabama (3-1, 2-1 SEC) didn't lead the game at any time during regulation, but forced overtime at 20-20 when Wilson scrambled for a 6-yard touchdown run with 1:09 remaining. The score capped an 88-yard drive sparked by Wilson's 43-yard completion to Keith Brown.

"I am very proud of the way the team responded and played in the second half," Saban said.

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