ATHENS — Georgia invested a lot into James Cook during the offseason, and it started to pay off in the first half of the Bulldogs’ game at Alabama on Saturday night.
Cook had carer-highs of four catches for 101 yards and a touchdown, including an 82-yard TD grab in the second quarter that gave the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead.
It was Cook who was in line for the vaunted DawgNation “Game Ball” as Georgia trotted to halftime with a 24-20 lead over the Tide in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama adjusted, of course, winning the game 41-24 to keep the Game Ball left in the bag.
Cook’s performance, which included five carries for 16 yards and a 10-yard run, was notable considering he missed the Tennessee game on account of a shoulder injury suffered the first half at Auburn.
It was also important for Cook to have another performance to prove his lackluster season-opening debut at Arkansas was an outlier. Cook dropped two passes and fumbled in the 37-10 win over Arkansas.
Georgia needs Cook to be a playmaker for its offense to be at its best.
Cook and fellow tailback Kenny McIntosh have appeared to be the Bulldogs most explosive players in space.
Here are some bullet points and mind-blowing numbers from Georgia’s 41-24 loss at Alabama:
• Senior defensive tackle Julian Rochester made his 20th carer start but first since 2018
• Center Trey Hill and safety Richard LeCounte lead the team with 22 consecutive starts
• Kirby Smart drops to 9-5 against Top 10 competition.
• Georgia got no points off one turnover, and Alabama got 21 points off three Georgia turnovers.
• Kirby Smart drops to 39-4 when leading at half, three of those losses have come to Alabama.
• Kirby Smart is 17-3 in night games, all three losses have come to Alabama.
• Nick Saban is now 22-0 against former assistants, including a 3-0 mark vs. Smart.
• Najee Harris was the first running back to score a rushing TD on Georgia since Josh Jacobs in the 2018 SEC Championship Game.
• Alabama leads the Georgia series 41-25-4 and Saban is 6-1 at Alabama against the Bulldogs dating back to a 26-23 overtime loss in 2007.
• Alabama has won 28 straight over SEC East teams, including five SEC Championship Games, dating back to a 2010 loss to South Carolina and Coach Steve Spurrier.
• Nick Saban has never lost a home game in Octobers at Alabama, now 47-2 in October games with both losses taking place on the road.
• Nick Saban tied former Penn State coach Joe Paterno for most wins against AP Top 25 teams, now with 86. Saban has best win percentage among the Top 5 in this category (86-42, 672). Among those five coaches with most wins against Top 25 teams, Paul “Bear” Bryant had a .592 win percentage vs. Top 25 teams, with Bobby Bowden (.557), Steve Spurrier (.529) and Paterno (.512)
• Kirby Smart dropped to 17-10 (.623) versus Top 25 teams.