TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Georgia’s defense is supposed to be its strength, and entering Saturday’s primetime matchup against No. 2 Alabama, it had been. The Bulldogs’ secondary had five interceptions and was only allowing 198.3 passing yards per game.
Then comes Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with wide receiving targets DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and John Metchie, and suddenly, all of Georgia’s defensive prowess was lost.
Jones completed 24 of his 32 pass attempts for 417 yards and four touchdowns. Smith hauled in 11 receptions for 167 yards and two touchdowns — all above average totals. Waddle finished with six receptions for 161 yards and one touchdown, and Metchie added 50 receiving yards and one touchdown on three receptions. What’s the end result? Alabama cruising to a dominant 41-24 victory to improve to 4-0 on the season.
“They've got great skill players, we knew that coming in,” said head coach Kirby Smart during a virtual postgame press conference. “I thought we had some big stops in the red area in the first half and then [in the] second half, we couldn't do it. We didn't stop them.”
Alabama’s offensive success is predicated on gathering its yards in explosive plays and besides an interception on the first play of the game, it did just that. The Crimson Tide needed three plays on their second drive, as Jones found Waddle for 16 yards on second down and then connected with Metchie one play later for a 40-yard touchdown.
But it wasn’t the opening half that buried the Bulldogs chances of defeating Alabama for the first time since 2007. Georgia entered halftime leading 24-20, and for all its defense struggles, the unit held Alabama to three third-down conversions in seven attempts, which was well below the Crimson Tide’s season average of 64.5%.
Alabama found its rhythm in the third quarter. After failing to score on its opening drive, Jones connected with Waddle for a 90-yard touchdown to give Alabama its first lead since the first quarter.
On the next Alabama possession, Jones completed passes of 11 and 34 yards, keeping the drive alive with the help of a pass interference penalty on Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes on third-and-9. Alabama running back Najee Harris scored on the next play to give Alabama the 34-24 lead.
“That was huge,” Smart said. “Because you go from them going to kick a field goal, to a first down. You can’t do that.”
It was Stokes’ second penalty of the game, as he was called for holding on third-and-19 early into the second quarter. Four of Georgia’s six penalties resulted in a first down for an Alabama offense that doesn’t need assistance moving the chains.
Georgia’s defeat doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of its defense. Three offensive turnovers — two in the second half — greatly shifted the momentum in Alabama’s favor. But Georgia’s defense is supposed to be built to handle tough situations, and it couldn’t against Alabama. The Crimson Tide finished with 564 yards of total offense and 33 first downs. As had been the case through the first three weeks of the season, Alabama rolled.
Much can be learned from an uncharacteristic performance like tonight, and fortunately for Georgia, six games still remain on its regular season schedule.
“The team who played better tonight won,” said senior safety Richard LeCounte during a virtual postgame press conference. “It happens in football, man, we’re going back to the drawing board. We’re able to fix where we messed up tonight.”