It started innocently with a running play. Maybe Nick Saban was running out the clock to end the first half.
Uh, maybe not.
Najee Harris rumbled 14 yards, and two mid-range pass completions followed. A spike to stop the clock. And a 52-yard field goal from Will Reichard as the clock hit zero. No, that’s not a typo.
On the verge of getting run out of Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night, No. 2 Alabama covered 41 yards in 20 seconds to cut into Georgia’s first-half lead to four.
By doing so, the Crimson Tide found a reprieve, slowing the momentum of the third-ranked Bulldogs. After scoring on their final four drives before intermission, Georgia had gone up by seven. True, it wasn’t an insurmountable lead. But, Georgia was getting the second-half kickoff and with Alabama’s defense reeling … well, the math is easy.
Three plays before the half led to a field goal, while providing Alabama a chance to catch a breath and regroup in the locker room.
Then on one heave early in the third quarter, the momentum change became a crimson wave. Jaylen Waddle got behind a defender, Mac Jones hit him in stride and, 90 yards later, Alabama had its first lead.
Alabama defeated Georgia 41-24 in a prime-time heavyweight showdown that lived up to much of the hype.
In fact, for the first thirty minutes, there was little doubt Georgia was the better team.
Boasting the nation’s No. 1 defense, facing off against the nation’s most efficient offense, Georgia’s advantage instead came when it had the ball, thanks to former walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennett who was flawless — for a half.
But something changed in the Alabama locker room. How do you fix eye discipline, miscommunication and busted coverages on defense in 20 minutes? Somehow, some way, Alabama did. Maybe Alabama could slow Georgia down.
No. Stopped ‘em cold.
In the second half, Bennett was forced into mistakes. An interception by Malachi Moore set up an Alabama score, pushing the lead to 10. And when Georgia seemed to be getting back its sea legs, Alabama linebacker Christian Harris forced Bennett out of the pocket and into another mistake – an interception by Daniel Wright that gave Bama a chance to push the lead to 17.
Alabama’s defense has been ridiculed and second guessed, and the criticism was merited. Even throughout the first half, former Tide stars were taking turns calling the unit out on social media.
But whatever adjustments happened in the locker room should be patented, sold and used to rebuild the economy.
Yes, Georgia’s defense was the real deal. For a half. They swarmed. They hit. They limited opportunities.
Then everything changed.
It may have started innocently. It ended with destructive force as Jones, Waddle, Harris and DeVonta Smith turned a white-knuckle night into the most convincing victory of the 2020 season.
There likely will be a rematch in December. Heck, we may need a rubber match in January.