Richt's Bulldogs ebb flow of Saban's Tide
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When it was over, 89 plastic stadium cups lay upon the grass in the southeast corner of Bryant-Denny Stadium. A few dozen crimson-and-white pompoms, too. And two airplane bottles of booze -- one Jim Beam, one Seagram's.That's the debris hurled down from the Alabama student section upon the celebrating pile of Georgia Bulldogs late Saturday night after the visitors had the unmitigated gall to beat the Crimson Tide 26-23 in overtime. It was an atrocious display of fan petulance, but not an unprecedented one. I've seen firsthand a smaller-scale bombardment between the hedges from Georgia fans after a bitter loss to Auburn in 2005. In the SEC, you'd better keep your helmet on after a big win on the road -- and if your uniform ends up smelling like liquor, hey, it should wash out. Here's what else came out in the wash on a wild night in T-Town: Richtenstein successfully invaded Sabanation. And the canonization of St. Nick was slowed just a bit. T-shirts reading "Sabanation" are hot sellers in Alabama these days, part of the Nick Saban hysteria that has consumed the state since the day he double-talked his way out of the NFL to resurrect the Crimson Tide. One Alabama couple named their newborn Saban before the guy had even coached a game. An insane 92,000 fans showed up to watch the spring game. Bama gave him a $32 million contract, richest in college coaching history, and hardly anyone blinked.
A win in this game and it really would have gotten crazy. The starry-eyed citizens of Sabanation might have commenced sacrificing virgins on the doorstep of the football offices.But in a startling single-play flash, Georgia demystified the man who coaches the Tide. Just as quickly as quarterback Matthew Stafford could loft a perfect 25-yard fly pattern to quicksilver receiver Mikey Henderson, reality returned. It turns out Alabama still has work to do before returning to powerhouse status, and it turns out Mark Richt is still the king of the road in the SEC. The Georgia coach is an astonishing 23-3 in league road games. That includes a 9-2 record against ranked teams and a 2-0 record right here in Bryant-Denny. And it helps mitigate the damage done by a home loss to South Carolina two weeks ago. "I think we grew up a lot tonight," Richt said of his young team. "I knew we would have to grow up relatively quick and there would be some growing pains, but I think we might have gotten ourselves back in the SEC race." The Dogs did it the hard way.
But the Dogs wouldn't submit."Alabama's done a great job of getting their kids believing," Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "But we believed, too." The Tide had to settle for a field goal in the opening possession of overtime. When the Bulldogs offense came out for its turn, Bobo went for the kill right away. His call: 142 Z takeoff. Stafford was to fake a handoff to the right, drawing the safety that direction. Then he'd look for his receiver deep on the left side against one-on-one coverage. "If they stuffed the run on first down, at their end of the field, their fans are gonna go berserk," Bobo explained. "You've usually got to hit one deep in a game like this." Georgia's sideline coaches asked Bobo which receiver he wanted to run the route. His response: "I don't care." Receivers coach John Eason made an unusual call, going with Henderson -- a senior who never had caught a touchdown pass, and who had dropped a deep ball earlier in the night.
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