Seven thoughts, notes and observations from the press box as No. 13 Alabama holds a 24-3 halftime lead over No. 8 Georgia:
1. As you’d expect, the feeling in the stadium is a sort of stunned anger. This got ugly, and got ugly quickly. For about 17 minutes it was a draw, and then the wheels came off. A long touchdown run. A blocked punt for a touchdown. A long pass play. And through it all a Georgia offense that could only go three-and-out. All that and Alabama gets the ball to start the second half. I didn’t cover the Blackout game in 2008, so psychologically I don’t know if this feels as devastating for Georgia as that one. That game was a rout from the start. This one took awhile. But the halftime feeling has to be the same.
2. A lot else has happened, obviously, but the main story of the game is Georgia’s offense vs. Alabama’s defense. There’s no room for Nick Chubb or Sony Michel to run. And while Greyson Lambert has had time to throw, nobody’s open. The question was how Lambert would handle pressure this game. Well there hasn’t been much. Alabama has focused on coverage, and to great effect. There will be those who blame the quarterback, but realistically it doesn’t seem like there’s much you can do with an ineffective running game and no open receivers.
3. That said, Brice Ramsey came in for the final series of the half, which may indicate he’ll get a shot in the second half. Mark Richt and Brian Schottenheimer were talking before the series. It appears they’re going to try something to jump-start the offense. But as Ramsey’s series showed – he was sacked on his only pass play, there’s only so much you can do.
4. The punt block for a touchdown felt like a back-breaker inside the stadium, and there was still 4:48 left in the first half. The subsequent penalty on the kickoff, backing the offense back inside its 10, only made it worse. And when the offense had to go three-and-out yet again there were scattered boos. It all comes back to offense: When you go three-and-out six times you just give the other team too many opportunities.
5. Georgia did have very good run defense, but it finally broke down on Derrick Henry’s 30-yard touchdown run. The difference, however, has been Alabama quarterback Jacob Coker, who had been so shaky this season. He’s been poised, making good throws but also creating time a few times with his scrambles. Georgia is trying to get pressure on him, but the blocking is good. And Georgia’s secondary had some bad busts as the quarter went on.
6. Every time Isaiah McKenzie isn’t back to return a kickoff it seems like a win for Alabama. That’s not a knock on Reggie Davis and Sony Michel. But in a game as offensively-challenged as this one, special teams needs to provide a spark. And then McKenzie had to leave the game late in the second quarter, so the point may be moot. I just don’t understand why he wasn’t returning kickoffs today, if he was healthy enough to return punts and play on offense.
7. A bright spot for Georgia? One question this week, given the events of last week, was how Marshall Morgan would do. Well, he started by making his first two field goal attempts – on the same drive, so only one counted. What a crazy sequence before Georgia’s first three points. Richt took Morgan’s points off the board, as well he should, as the ball went to the Alabama 8. First and goal. But a personal foul on Georgia, followed by Lambert’s scramble and fumble, pushed the ball back to the 30. Then a dump-off to Chubb was snuffed out for a 6-yard loss. First-and-goal at the 37. But then Lambert, pressured left, made a nice play finding Godwin on the sideline for 26 yards, pushing it back to chip-shot field goal territory. It would have been an emotional disaster for Georgia to get nothing out of that drive. As it turned out, that would come later.
Final thought: Alabama gets the ball to start the second half, which doesn’t help matters psychologically for Georgia. Yes, it feels over. It’s not, but there’s a ton that Georgia has to overcome, and if the Bulldogs can’t move the ball, then it’s definitely over.