Thursday, December 13

The 25 Biggest Plays of the Mark Richt Era, #20:
"One and done, baby!"

#22 Georgia 26, #16 Alabama 23 (OT)
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, September 22, 2007

G 1-10 A25 GEORGIA drive start at 15:00.
G 1-10 A25 Matt Stafford pass complete to Mikey Henderson for 25 yards to the UA0, TOUCHDOWN, clock 15:00.


------------ 1 play, 25 yards, TOP 00:00 ------------

=====FINAL SCORE======

The full recap of the game is here, but the condensed USA Today version is this: The 2007 Georgia-Alabama game was one of the wildest roller-coaster rides I've ever been on at a Georgia football game. We screened the Crimson Tide to death on the way to a touchdown on our first drive and allowed Bama's offense to do basically nothing for the first half until a last-second field goal made the score 10-3 at the break; when we started off the second half by recovering a muffed kickoff return within drink-throwing distance of the Bama red zone, it looked like the knife was in deep and we were about to give it a nice, painful twist.

But we went nowhere after recovering the KO fumble, Brandon Coutu missed a 50-yard field goal, and on Georgia's next drive Stafford threw an interception that Tripp Chandler didn't go up high enough for, and three plays later John Parker Wilson burrowed into the end zone to tie the game. It was a repeat of the third-quarter narcolepsy we'd committed numerous times during our 2006 mid-season slump, and it certainly looked like the momentum was swinging in the other direction, but Georgia grabbed it right back with a TD on their next drive and tacked on a field goal for good measure early in the fourth.

A 20-10 lead, pretty safe against an offense that had broken exactly one big play the entire night, right? Nope. Bama got down to the Georgia 5 on their next drive and kicked a field goal, held the Dawgs to a three-and-out, then went right back down and scored the tying touchdown. Georgia made a valiant effort at driving back down in just over a minute's time to try and kick the winning field goal, but Coutu missed just left and Georgia was headed into overtime for the first time since the 2003 Capital One Bowl.

From up in the northeast corner of the stadium, right behind the Georgia band, things did not look good, at least to me. Georgia's record in overtime was a respectable 3-2, but it was hard to say Alabama didn't have the momentum at that point, and the Bryant-Denny crowd -- which I still maintain is the loudest I've ever heard away from Sanford Stadium -- was out for blood.

Fortunately, so was our defense. Alabama was held to no gain on their OT possession and had to kick a field goal, and then Mike Bobo decided he wanted to end Georgia's OT possession just as emphatically as the defense had ended Bama's. He rang up a play called 142-Z-Takeoff, a flag route to Mikey Henderson in the corner of the end zone -- little 5'10", 156-pound #27, who had two catches for 11 yards up to that point in the game -- and let Stafford rip. Stafford faked to Brown and launched an absolutely perfect TD pass to Mikey -- seriously, any more or less mojo on the ball and it would've been either an incompletion or a game-ending pick -- and it was game over. Cue Scott Howard going apeshit in the booth and a pile of Dawgs in the end zone that nearly compacted Henderson into a diamond. Or as Mikey himself tells it:

The image that kept going through Henderson’s head, the one he thought for a moment would be his last, was of a cartoon in which a falling person makes a body-shaped indention in the Earth.

“My head was stuck on the ground and all I could see was [OL Chester Adams’] legs, his number and lower body,” Henderson said. “I thought I was in quicksand for a minute. I felt like I was sinking into the ground as more guys got on top, but I guess I was just sinking into my pads.”

As with the win in Knoxville in 2003, we stayed in the stadium for almost an hour afterward, and I know there were people who stayed even longer than that and probably had to get kicked out by the security guards.

Obviously the win had lost a little bit of its luster by the time Alabama had lost late in the year to UL-Monroe and finished the regular season on a four-game skid, but I think it's safe to say that the Bama team we faced that night was considerably different from the one that packed it in against Mississippi State and ULM -- and I don't care who you are, a win over a ranked team in Tuscaloosa at night is something to be cherished. It was a nice way to breathe some life back into the team after a frustrating loss to the Gamecocks and a who-cares outing against Western Carolina, and whether Nick Saban ends up Alabama's savior or every bit as much of a footnote as the last few guys have been, the history books will still remember that his first loss as coach of the Tide was dealt to him by the Dawgs.

1 comment:

Hobnail_Boot said...

Only one point of contention: that place wasn't loud until Wilson ran it in to tie the game at 20. Up until that point it was a big, lifeless crowd from my vantage point. Being my first game in Tuscaloosa, I was completely underwhelmed by the noise. Vandy was louder this year than Bama.