Najee Harris

Alabama's Najee Harris (22) runs the ball on Oct. 17, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by University of Alabama)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No. 3 Georgia fell to No. 2 Alabama 41-24 in its first game back in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, since Sept. 22, 2007. Here are some observations from The Red & Black:

Can’t stop Najee

Even with a defense that entered allowing just 38.3 rushing yards per game, Georgia couldn’t bottle up Alabama running back Najee Harris. After running for 206 yards and five touchdowns on Oct. 10 against Ole Miss, Harris opened Saturday with 80 rushing yards on 13 carries in the opening half.

Harris had runs of 17, 11 and 14 yards in the first half, either finding room to run with ease or creating it himself.

While Harris wasn’t able to recreate his five-touchdown performance from last Saturday, Alabama repeatedly called his number after finding the lead in the second half. On the Crimson Tide’s third drive of the half, Harris handled his first-and-goal carry to earn his first touchdown.

The Crimson Tide’s subsequent 34-24 lead provided an opportunity for Harris to guide them in their following drive, receiving eight carries in an 11-play, 55-yard drive that once again ended in a touchdown.

Harris seemingly grew stronger as the game progressed, finishing with 152 yards on 31 carries. He helped run out the clock through the fourth quarter, running for chunks of yards against a tired Georgia defense.

Second half secondary struggles

While Georgia’s defense didn’t necessarily stop Jones and his trio of receivers in the first half, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and John Metchie all found the end zone. Smith led all Alabama receivers with 167 receiving yards and 11 receptions. But Waddle’s 90-yard touchdown reception with four minutes remaining in the quarter gave the Crimson Tide a 27-24 lead, and the group didn’t stop there.

Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes was called for pass interference on third-and-9 late in the third quarter, setting Alabama up for its second touchdown of the quarter. It was his second penalty of the game — each on third down — that resulted in an Alabama first down.

Penalties again were an issue for Georgia’s secondary on Alabama’s subsequent drive, as cornerback Tyrique Stevenson was called for holding while guarding Waddle on second-and-15 to give the Crimson Tide a first down. Jones then found Smith for a 13-yard touchdown pass later in the drive to put Alabama up 41-24, and the rout was on.

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones has no issue for the majority of the evening, finishing with 417 passing yards and four touchdowns. Waddle continued his impressive start to the season by finishing with 161 receiving yards and one touchdown.

Putting running backs to use

Georgia has self-proclaimed itself as the running back university, or “RBU,” and against Alabama, the Bulldogs versatile rushers were put to for the first time this season. James Cook, after missing last Saturday’s game against Tennessee, showed why he received praise as a receiving threat against Alabama.

Cook finished with 101 receiving yards on just four receptions. He opened the second quarter with an 82-yard touchdown reception — the longest of the Kirby Smart era. While he wasn’t used much as a rusher, Georgia finished with four different running backs receiving multiple carries.

Redshirt sophomore running back Zamir White only received 10 carries on the night, finishing with 57 yards and a touchdown. Kendall Milton, after not receiving much of the load from the backfield in Georgia’s first three games, finished as Georgia’s second-leading rusher with 44 yards on six carries. The Bulldogs finished with 145 yards on the ground on 30 carries.

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