ATHENS — If you weren’t around to witness Georgia’s infamous loss to Alabama in the 2008 “blackout game,” don’t worry. You saw it again Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
In a performance reminiscent of that late-September day seven years ago – when the Bulldogs’ were also the higher-ranked and more-hyped team – No. 8 Georgia gagged again on the way to a 38-10 loss to the 13th-ranked Crimson Tide. A sell-out crowd of 92,746 endured miserably wet conditions to watch it.
The Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 SEC) fell behind 24-3 in the first half due to anemic offensive play and special teams’ gaffes. By the time, Nick Chubb did the only truly positive thing all night – he ripped off an 83-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to tie Herschel Walker’s 100-yard games streak – Georgia was still behind four scores with no real hope of victory.
“They certainly whipped us pretty good,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “And we didn’t have any counter punches for them. We just got out-coached and out-played.”
The primary storyline coming in was whether the Bulldogs’ renowned running attack would be able to move the football against Alabama’s No. 4-ranked rushing defense. The answer, at least until Chubb’s record-tieing run with five seconds remaining in the third quarter, was a resounding no.
Chubb, who came in averaging 149.8 yards, had only 63 yards and was averaging 3.5 yards a carry before his TD scamper. He finished with 146 yards on 20 carries and the Bulldogs had 193 as a team.
“I think we can still run the football,” said Chubb, who matched Walker’s school record mark of 13 consecutive 100-yard games, a streak that also leads all active FBS backs. “It just hurts to lose.”
Said Richt: “I was glad for the kid. I was glad for Georgia to see him get in the end zone. Heard some cheering.”
Before that the Bulldogs hadn’t given their rain-soaked crowd much to crow about. With the running game choked off early, they couldn’t get the passing game flying either. And after Greyson Lambert went 7-for-17 in the first half, Georgia went to Brice Ramsey in hopes of jump-starting the offense. Instead, the redshirt sophomore went 1-for-6 and threw two interceptions, including one Alabama returned 50 yards for a touchdown.
“Just trying to find some answers, just trying to find some spark,” Richt said of switching quarterbacks. “I would say we’re just going to have to reevaluate everything, quarterback play, everything. So we’ll see where we land..”
All that came after the Crimson Tide scored on a blocked punt and threw a 45-yard touchdown pass in a 55-second span at the end of the second quarter. That turned a one-score game into a three-score game. The Bulldogs committed four turnovers on three interceptions and a fumble and generally played without poise. UGA was flagged eight times for 82 yards and several of the infractions of the personal-foul variety.
With 450 credentialed media on hand to witness it, it re-ignited the discussion about whether or not Georgia would ever win at the highest level under Richt. The Bulldogs’ players wanted to hear nothing of it.
“There won’t be any negative noise in the program,” senior tackle John Theus said. “There may be some on the outside, but we do a good job of ignoring the noise whether it’s good or bad. Because the people praising you can be talking bad about you tomorrow. So we don’t concern ourselves with that opinion.”
The one fortunate thing about the embarrassing loss for the Bulldogs was it counts only one time in the standings. Just like Alabama, which had suffered defeat at the hands of Ole Miss in its last conference outing, Georgia can still achieve all its season goals. The Bulldogs will have to pick up the pieces in practice this week as they prepare to face Tennessee in Knoxville next week. It, too, will be a 3:30 p.m. nationally-televised game.
“For most people it’s going to be demoralizing,” senior outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “But we know we have a whole season left. Nothing’s over for us yet. We’re going to keep fighting. Were not going to give up on this one loss. More than ever, it’s just a learning experience for the young guys who haven’t been through it before.”
Said Chubb: “We probably won’t get it out of our system until Monday after practice. But I think we’ll respond well. Georgia’s lost a game pretty much every year and we always bounce back stronger.”