September 23, 2007

Georgia jumps back in SEC race

MORE: Georgia turns Back Tide in OT | Box score

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo wanted to take a shot.

He probably wasn't alone.

After a stomach-churning series of momentum shifts in the final minutes of the fourth quarter Saturday night, just about all of the 92,138 at Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium likely wanted to take a shot, too. Some in the student section probably did.

But not the kind Bobo had in mind.

Rather, he made a daring call to take a win-it-now shot on the Bulldogs' first play in overtime, and Matthew Stafford and Mikey Henderson answered that call with a 25-yard touchdown pass that lifted the Bulldogs to a 26-23 victory over Alabama.

"We were over by the end zone and their fans were loud, and I knew if we ran and they stuffed us on the first play, they would go berserk," Bobo said. "I thought we would go for it right there. It was a routine play, but it will go down as a great play."

Kicker Brandon Coutu will remember how that touchdown got him off the hook for missing a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. Henderson will remember the first touchdown catch of his career. Celebrating Georgia players will remember being showered with beverages, crimson-and-white pom-pons and profane insults from the Alabama student section as they celebrated in the south corner of the end zone.

No. 22 GEORGIA 26, No. 16 ALABAMA 23, OT
Player of the game
Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford was 19 of 35 for 224 yards and two touchdowns, including a perfectly thrown scoring strike for the game-winner.
Turning point
Some might say it was the overtime coin toss, which Georgia won. The Bulldogs opted to play defense first, and held the Tide to a field goal. On Georgia's first play, Stafford threw 25 yards to Mikey Henderson in the back corner of the end zone to end the game.
Best coaching move
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who calls Georgia's plays, called "1-42 Z takeoff" because he was anticipating man coverage on the Bulldogs' first OT play. That's what the Bulldogs got, and they took advantage.
Surprise performance
Georgia started true freshman Clint Boling at right guard, true freshman Trinton Sturdivant at left tackle and redshirt freshman Chris Davis at left guard. The Bulldogs did not allow a sack and produced 377 yards, including 165 on the ground.
What this means for Alabama
The euphoria over the Crimson Tide's fast start subsides a bit, and Alabama will drop a few rungs in the national rankings. But overall, the Tide remains LSU's chief rival in the SEC West.
What this means for Georgia
The hard-fought victory showed the Bulldogs could win a tough game on the road, which is good with trips to Tennessee, Vanderbilt and to Jacksonville to face Florida looming in a three-game stretch to start October. It also will boost Georgia in the national polls.
Noteworthy
Long-time Georgia play-by-play announcer Larry Munson did not call Saturday's game on Georgia's radio broadcast, only the second time he missed a road game in more than 42 years. For health reasons, Munson is only calling games in Georgia this season. Alabama is 3-7 in overtime since the concept began in 1996. Tide receiver DJ Hall had three catches for 46 yards, which extended his school record streak of games with at least one reception to 22 in a row. Alabama sophomore linebacker Prince Hall had 12 tackles, one short of his career best.
Everyone in the Southeastern Conference may remember that Georgia was considered a strong contender in the SEC Eastern Division race before that disappointing loss to South Carolina two weeks ago.

By dealing Alabama its first loss of the Nick Saban era, the Bulldogs offered a not-so-subtle reminder that they, too, are a team with championship aspirations. Those aspirations seem a little more realistic after South Carolina lost at LSU and Florida appeared vulnerable in holding on for a 30-24 victory at Ole Miss.

The Bulldogs (3-1) get Ole Miss in Athens next week, then follow with a challenging stretch of away games. Georgia must go to Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Jacksonville for the annual showdown with Florida.

Georgia - which started three freshmen (one redshirt) on the offensive line - now will be more equipped for the upcoming grind, not only because they won at Alabama but for the manner in which it did so.

The Bulldogs could not hold a 20-10 fourth-quarter lead, then missed a chance to pull out the victory in regulation when Coutu's 47-yard attempt sailed wide left.

Then, after Alabama kicked a field goal on its first possession of overtime, Bobo made his call.

"It had been a nerve-wracking game to see those guys come back on us and then to force overtime," Bobo said. "I wanted to see how our guys would respond."

So, he called "1-42 Z takeoff," a play called earlier in the game but not run because the receivers lined up incorrectly.

"Coach Bobo made a great play call," Stafford said. "They had been playing a lot of one-on-one coverage, and I knew that would give Mikey a chance. We had max protection and he's a speed guy. He had a burst to get by, and I tried to get up the ball up there."

Henderson, a senior, got behind cornerback Lionel Mitchell in the back corner of the end zone for his third catch of the game.

"I thought, 'This is it. I've got it,' " Henderson said. "You could hear the crowd and (the stadium) was shaking, but when the ball was in the air I felt like I was in outer space. There was nothing going on. And then all I saw was all the white jerseys all around me in the (celebratory) dog pile. I was in another place."

Yeah, second place a game behind in the Eastern Division standings and still alive in the race.

Without the win, who knows where the Bulldogs would be going.

"I don't know if this saved (this season)," Stafford said. "But it jump-started it."

That's what a shot can do for you.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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