TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Mikey Henderson and the Georgia Bulldogs weren't going to drop the ball again.
Frustrated by missed chances in a loss to South Carolina two weeks earlier, the 15th-ranked Bulldogs' young offense came through Saturday night in a 26-23 overtime win against No. 22 Alabama.
Matthew Stafford's 25-yard touchdown pass to Henderson on Georgia's first offensive play in overtime ensured that this wouldn't be another game that got away. It's no surprise what was going through the senior receiver's mind before his first career touchdown catch.
"Just catch it, because the last deep ball I dropped," Henderson said. "A lot of plays slipped out of our hands against South Carolina. There were a lot of plays that we wanted to make and just didn't."
A few balls slipped out of receivers' hands in this one, too, but none cost them the game.
Georgia (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) blew a 20-10 lead in the final 6:30 of the fourth quarter and missed a potential game-winning field goal against the Crimson Tide (3-1, 2-1) as time expired.
"We kind of shot ourselves in the foot," Stafford said. "We had a chance to win it in regulation and we didn't. But we kept our poise as a young team and we came back and won it."
Except for the outcome, it was somewhat reminiscent of that 16-12 loss to South Carolina that included a dropped pass at the goal line late and four field goals. This time, Brandon Coutu only made 2-of-4 field goals, though all of his attempts were from at least 45 yards.
At the end of this one, the players finished with a wild celebration in the corner of the end zone that Stafford said was fun but had him "a little scared."
Tide coach Nick Saban said his fears of a lackluster start following a dramatic win over Arkansas proved true. The Bulldogs jumped out 10-0 and dominated most of the first half, with Stafford picking Alabama apart with a short passing game that didn't give the defense time to mount a pass rush.
"I was concerned about the intensity, focus and concentration we had this week in practice, and I think it showed in the first-half performance of the game," Saban said. "I think that was the worst we played all year long."
But he said the game supplied the Tide with "a lot of lessons to be learned," including handling success and the outside attention and distractions that come with it.
Stafford was 5-for-6 for 64 yards on the opening drive for a touchdown, though he was intercepted twice after that.
Stafford managed to put the Bulldogs in position for the potential game-winning field goal at the end of the fourth quarter, but Coutu pushed the kick wide left.
With the win, Georgia jumped seven spots in the national rankings and avoided digging a bigger hole in the SEC Eastern Division.
"I think we grew up a lot," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. "Any time you can come in and play a Top 20 team at their home stadium and withstand that fourth-quarter surge, then win the game in overtime, it is a tremendous thing for your 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."