By Scott Latta
UA Media Relations
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. ?? The Alabama football team rallied from a pair of ten-point deficits in Saturday night’s game against Georgia, but Bulldog quarterback Matthew Stafford hit receiver Mikey Henderson in the end zone in overtime to hand the Tide its first loss of the season, 26-23 in front of a sold-out Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“I’m very, very proud of the way the team responded and played in the second half,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “We came back in the game on several occasions, we had an opportunity to have a chance to win the game in overtime, so the competitive spirit, the resiliency, the overcoming adversity, the getting it turned around, getting adjustments made were all positives.”
Georgia took a 20-10 second-half lead with a six-yard touchdown run from tailback Knowshon Moreno and a 47-yard field goal from kicker Brandon Coutu with just over 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter before Alabama answered with a 22-yard field goal from Tiffin to cut the lead to 20-13.
After a Georgia punt gave the Tide the ball at its own 12-yard line, Wilson then led the offense on a late touchdown-scoring drive for the second week in a row, this time on a 12-play, 88-yard scoring drive that ended in a six-yard touchdown run from the quarterback to tie the game at 20 with 1:09 left in the game.
Coutu missed a 47-yard field goal as time expired to force overtime. After receiving the ball, Alabama was held to a 42-yard Tiffin field goal to take a 23-20 lead. On Georgia’s first play from scrimmage, Stafford hit Henderson in the left side of the end zone for the game-winner.
“These are the types of games you come to Alabama to play,” said senior defensive back Simeon Castille. “It was a big game for us and Georgia. It would have been great to get a win. We came up a little short. I am proud of how we fought the whole game. Georgia has a good team. We never quit, we just came up a little short tonight.”
Georgia (3-1, 1-1 SEC) scored first in the game on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to tailback Thomas Brown. The Bulldogs later added a 45-yard field goal from Coutu to extend the lead to 10-0 over the Tide in the second quarter.
Alabama (3-1, 2-1 SEC) answered with a seven-play, 46-yard drive to end the first half, with junior quarterback John Parker Wilson finding sophomore Mike McCoy four times on the drive, which ended with a 40-yard kick from sophomore Leigh Tiffin to cut the deficit to 10-3 at the half.
After Georgia forced an Alabama punt in the third quarter, junior defensive back Rashad Johnson stepped in front of a Stafford pass and returned it 26 yards to the Bulldogs’ 37-yard line. Two plays later, freshman tailback Terry Grant rushed for 30 yards to the Georgia one-yard line before Wilson sneaked in the tying touchdown one play later to knot the game at 10.
Wilson finished the night 17-of-35 for 185 yards and two rushing touchdowns. McCoy caught six passes for 47 yards, senior Keith Brown caught three for 73 yards, including a 43-yarder on Alabama’s final drive of regulation to set up the tying score. Senior DJ Hall had three catches for 46 yards.
On the ground, Grant had 11 carries for 80 yards, and sophomore Glen Coffee had 16 carries for 63 yards.
“I don’t think it will be hard [to rebound next week],” Grant said. “We just have to come together as a team and come together to focus at practice this week.”
Alabama steps out of conference next week when the Tide travels to Jacksonville, Fla. to face the Florida State Seminoles (2-1, 0-1 ACC). Kickoff time has not been determined.