The No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs suffered their first loss of the 2020 season to the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide, 41-24 Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in front of a crowd of 19,424 and a national-televised audience on CBS.
“I was really pleased with the way our guys competed,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “Frustrated that we couldn’t get anything going in the second half, especially on that opening drive. I thought we would have been able to run down, but we stalled out and lost some momentum.”
Smart added, “Give them [Alabama] credit. We have to get back to the drawing boards because we still have a really good football team and we control what is in front of us by how we play.”
The Bulldogs (3-1) compiled 414 yards on offense, 269 through the air, and 145 on the ground. The defense forced one interception and sacked Alabama quarterback Mac Jones three times.
Redshirt-junior Stetson Bennett completed 18 passes on 40 attempts, throwing for 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Bennett threw for 177 yards in the first half, the third most by a quarterback in the last four seasons against Alabama behind LSU’s Joe Burrow in 2019 and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence in 2018.
Sophomore James Cook recorded 117 all-purpose yards, including his first career receiving touchdown on an 82-yard completion. Bennett’s favorite receiving target was sophomore George Pickens, who recorded five receptions for 53-yards. Freshman Jermaine Burton caught four passes for 58-yards and his first career touchdown. Redshirt-sophomore Zamir White led the way on the ground for the Bulldogs, rushing 10 times for 57 yards and one touchdown with a long of 12.
Defensively, the Bulldogs sophomore Lewis Cine led the way with eight total tackles, four solo. While seniors Jermaine Johnson, Malik Herring, and sophomore Nakobe Dean each recorded a sack. Richard LeCounte grabbed his third interception of the season and ninth of his career.
Specialist Jake Camarda punted four times for 196 yards and an average of 49 putting three inside the twenty and hitting two over 50 yards. Jack Podlesny went 1-for-2 in the kicking game, making a 50-yard field goal in the second quarter.
From the first snap, the Bulldogs made their presence known, pressuring Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, allowing LeCounte to secure the interception. On the ensuing possession, Bennett would go on to throw his first interception of the season. The Crimson Tide would take advantage with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Jones to John Metchie to put the Bulldogs down 7-0.
The offense would respond a few drives later, going 57 yards on eight plays, capped off by a 10-yard White touchdown run. Freshman Kendall Milton was integral in setting up the score, rushing for a career-high long of 25-yards. A Podlesny point-after-attempt tied the game a 7-7 with a minute to go in the first quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter, Bennett threw his first touchdown of the game to Cook for 82-yards. It would be the longest play for the Bulldogs since 2013. Podlesny put the extra point right down the middle for the Bulldogs to take their first lead of the game, 14-7.
The Crimson Tide would spend the following 5:49 going 60-yards on 13 plays before being stopped at the 15-yard line thanks to a Johnson sack. Will Reichard hit a 33-yard field goal to put the Crimson Tide within three, 14-10.
A week after hitting his career high with a 51-yard field goal against Tennessee, Podlesny capped a 10 play, 44-yard drive a yard shy of tying that high, making a 50-yard field goal to push the Bulldog lead back to seven, 17-10.
A back and forth first half continued as Jones would tie the game once again at 17 after completing a 17-yard pass to DeVonta Smith with three-minutes to go before halftime.
The Bulldogs would use nearly all three of those minutes, driving 66-yards on 12 plays, including Bennett drawing the Alabama defense offsides on fourth and inches, ending with a five-yard strike to Burton.
With 23-seconds left on the clock, Alabama would drive 41-yards and finish the first half with a career-long 51-yard field goal for Reichard. Georgia would lead the Crimson Tide 24-20 heading into the break set to receive in the second half.
The second half began with great defensive series on both sides, it would not be until the four-minute mark that Jones would find Jaylen Waddle for a 90-yard connection to put Alabama ahead for the first time since the first the score was 7-0. The Bulldogs would go down 27-24 with four minutes to go in the third quarter.
On the next Georgia possession, Bennett would throw his second interception of the night after a ricochet off a Bulldog receiver. Jones would take the Crimson Tide 56-yards in 5 plays finished off by a Najee Harris 2-yard touchdown rush to put the Bulldogs down 34-24.
Another Bulldog turnover led to a 45-yard, 10 play drive by Alabama ending with a 13-yard touchdown reception by Smith to put the Crimson Tide up 41-24, where the score would stay.
Georgia will take their bye week, a week early due to SEC rescheduling before heading to Lexington, Kentucky for a matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, Oct. 31. Kickoff is set for Noon, ET with coverage provided by SEC Network.