ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia was trailing by seven points when it happened.
Another offensive drive had stalled, this time on Georgia’s 16-yard line. Collin Barber prepared to punt for the fifth time in a game where Alabama would force him onto the field 10 times. Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick blew towards him, made the block on the 1-yard line and scored to give Alabama 17-3 lead.
Instantly, the mood shifted.
“It was crazy,” tailback Sony Michel said. “They had all the momentum.”
Michel felt Georgia had the edge before the miscue. But there were a few times when mistakes shifted the game in Alabama’s favor. That was one of them.
“When you get turnovers in that fashion, it’s motivation for any team and they definitely capitalized on that,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “You have to focus in as a defense and not let that affect you.”
A minute later, Alabama’s Jake Coker connected with Calvin Ridley on a 45-yard score. In sixty seconds, what was a seven point deficit became 21.
“There’s time to rally and get things going again, but it was discouraging, no doubt,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “If you coach the game long enough, 21 points is not a deficit that you can’t come back on. You’ve just got to get some points on the board, try to swing the momentum and all that and we just weren’t able to do that.”
From there, it was all Alabama. They added a 50-yard interception return for the score on Georgia’s first drive of the third quarter, and a short run from Coker to stretch the lead to 35 points – 28 of them unanswered after the block.
“It took momentum from us,” tailback Nick Chubb said. “They were rolling, pretty much.”
Said Richt: “We didn’t really have any good counter-punches either coming back in the second half. You’d like to reduce that a little bit and it just didn’t happen.”
Now, they go to the film. Richt thinks he knows where the breakdown happened, but wants to be sure before deciding if a change needs to be made.
“We have to do a great job of studying the film and finding the things that were problematic and we have to address them,” Richt said. “Do you you address it by personnel, do you address it by changing scheme? There’s a lot of different ways to look at it and you’ve got to be willing make changes if need be. You’ve just got to be patient and consider that guys are learning as you go.”