29 September 2008
I wanted to let the events of Saturday night sit with me for a full day before making any type of analysis. Sometimes witnessing something like that can send me into fits of hyperbole, and I wanted to try to avoid that, and instead put a sound analytical eye to what happened in Athens.
It's been 46 hours since the game started, and I'm still not capable of doing anything other than say "wow!"
I still plan on looking at the offense and defense seperately as I have for the other four games - it's been good luck so far. But I wanted to take a crack at giving an overview before going into the specifics of the game.
It would be inaccurate to say that Alabama played a perfect first half against Georgia. I say that because the Tide did allow four first downs and squandered a red zone opportunity. But that's possibly being a bit hyper critical, as Alabama played about as solid a half of football as it's possible to play. And the 31-0 lead on the scoreboard is all the proof that anyone needed to see.
While Alabama may have scored 35 points in last week's win at Arkansas, there is a distinct difference between the two games. Simply put - Arkansas is terrible and Georgia is very good.
That's right, folks, the Tide absolutely whipped a very good football team.... in their building... in front of a sold out stadium.... in one of the biggest games in Georgia football history. Wow!
The whippings that the Tide put on Clemson and Arkansas were impressive in that they were Bama's first real test and first road game, respectively, and it appeared as though those games would serve as litmus tests for this team. The fact that Clemson was vastly over rated and Arkansas is a down right awful football left a lot of us shrugging our shoulders and looking forward to Georgia, saying "this
will be the real first test for the team."
Unlike the Tide's two previous BCS-team dominations, this one can not be attributed to the Tide's opponent being less than expected. This Georgia team is a very good football team - I simply can not say that enough.
If you need evidence of that, simply watch the third quarter. Unlike Clemson, who simply tucked tail and waited for the clock to run out, Georgia came out of the locker room for the second half and played like a good football team should. They counter-punched Bama's initial punch in the mouth with a third quarter that saw them hold Bama without a first down, and allowed them to creep ever so slightly back into the game.
Matthew Stafford is the real deal, possibly the best quarterback in the country (with a tip of the cap to Chase Daniel and Sam Bradford). Knowshon Moreno was taken out of the game by the 31-0 score, but he is also the real deal - watch him still lead the SEC in rushing. And the combination of A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi is still one of the nation's better receiving duos.
I point all of these things out because it only goes to show how impressive Bama's win was. The fact that the Tide was able to utterly dominate this group in the first half was incredible. The fact that Alabama was able to take Georgia's best punch to start the second half and respond with 10 fourth quarter points to ice the game tells me even more about the character of this team.
Much has been made so far about the fact that Alabama has not trailed this season. And a lot should be made of that. The fact that Bama has only been tied for just over 26 of the 300 minutes played this season (0-0 is the closest any opponent has been) is amazing. But it leaves open for question how this team will respond to adversity.
I think we found out a little bit about that on Saturday night. After Prince Miller's 92 yard punt return for a TD Bama could have folded. Two horrible no calls by the officials allowed that return to happen, which closed the gap to 14 points and brought the "blacked out" Bulldog fans back to life. If you weren't there to witness it, let me tell you... that place got LOUD
Had the Bama offense executed another 3-and-out, as they had on their previous possessions in the 2nd half, Georgia would have been poised to close the gap further, which would have made things dicey down the stretch. Instead the Tide offense circled the wagons and had an eight play drive that took 4:56 off of the clock.
Oh yeah, it also put three points onto the scoreboard and a dagger into the hearts of the Georgia team. For all of the crap that Leigh Tiffin has taken in his career over the 2006 Arkansas debacle, and the fact that his kickoffs have been so-so in 2008, the kid deserves a ton of credit for how he has kicked on placements for the past season and a half. And while you should always expect an SEC kicker to make 32 yard field goals, this was a clutch kick that will probably be glossed over by most people who review the game.
That drive energized the Alabam sideline and resulted in a great defensive possession. It took Georgia nine plays to net 16 yards and Bama took over on downs at midfield. It took a mere five plays for Bama to completely put the game out of hand with another touchdown. The two TDs scored by Georgia in the game's final minutes were cosmetic, and come December could help the Dawgs get back into the national title hunt if the BCS gets as crazy as it did in 2007.
Some notes of interest:
- The 41 points scored by the Tide were the most ever against Georgia. The previous best was 36, done twice. Once in 1905 when Jack Leavenworth's squad won 36-0, though it is worth noting that at the time a touchdown was worth five points and a field goal worth four. The other time was much more modern... Wallace Wade's first team in 1923 also beat Georgia 36-0. That record has been around for a little while.
- A record that hasn't been around for a while is the mark for career passing yards. On Bama's final drive John Parker Wilson broke the record of his predecessor Brodie Croyle. Wilson now has every meaningful career and season passing record in school history - except wins. Of course, the Tide record for wins in a season by a QB is 13 by Jay Barker, and Bama could play 14 games this season.
- Digging back into the record book I see that Alabama has not scored 40 points in three consecutive games since 1991 - 48 vs. Vandy, 53 vs. Chattooga, 62 vs. Tulane.
- Going further back, the last time Bama scored 40 points in consecutive SEC road games was 1979 - 66 at Vandy and 40 at Florida. Those were not consecutive games, Bama thumped Wichita State at home 38-0 in between.
- The last time Bama turned the 40 point trick in consecutive SEC road games there were actually consecutive games on the schedule was in 1950 when the Tide then member Georgia Tech 54-19 in Atlanta and followed that with a 41-13 victory over Florida in Jacksonville.
- With that Flordia game having been in Jacksonville, and not Gainesville, a deeper look into the record books shows that Alabama has never scored 40 points in consecutive SEC road games, that were consecutive games on the schedule, that were played on campus at the SEC school. That's being a little technical, but a record is a record.
- For the record, if Alabama were to score 40 points again on Saturday it would mark the first time Bama has scored 40 in three consecutive SEC games since 1980.
- And also for the record, the Tide hasn't scored 40 points in four consecutive games since they pulled the trick in back to back years in 1919 and 1920.