Photo courtesy of Georgia athletics
During his tenure in Tuscaloosa, head coach Nick Saban has transformed Alabama into the premier power in college football. In recent years, however, another SEC program has emerged to challenge the Crimson Tide.
Last season, Georgia, led by former Saban assistant Kirby Smart, topped Alabama for the national championship. Georgia is the last team to beat Alabama, but it was also the first to beat the Crimson Tide during the Saban era.
That victory came on this day 15 years ago and in thrilling fashion. Matt Stafford’s 25-yard touchdown pass in overtime was the difference as the Bulldogs pulled out the 26-23 victory.
Setting the Stage
In his first season at the helm, Saban had taken Alabama from unranked to No. 16 in the country as he arrived at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Sept. 22, 2007. Alabama was 3-0 and 2-0 in SEC play after a thrilling 41-38 victory over ranked Arkansas.
Georgia was 2-1 as it arrived in Tuscaloosa. Ranked No. 22, the Bulldogs were looking for their first SEC win as they got set to play their first road game.
Georgia Prevails in Overtime
In regulation, the teams traded runs of 10 points. After Alabama drew even at 10-10, Georgia pulled back in front with a touchdown run from Knowshon Moreno in the third quarter and a field goal from Brandon Coutu early in the fourth.
Down 20-10, Alabama tied things once again with back-to-back long drives. The Crimson Tide settled for a Leigh Tiffin field goal with 6:30 left before quarterback John Parker Wilson capped an 88-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run — his second — with 1:09 left.
With the score knotted 20-20, Stafford completed three passes to move the Bulldogs from their own 34-yard-line to the Alabama 30. Coutu came on with a chance to win it from 47 yards away. On the final snap of regulation, however, his kick sailed left.
Despite being on the field for two long drives that ate up more than nine minutes late in regulation, the Georgia defense rose to the occasion in overtime. Alabama didn’t manage a single yard on its possession. Tiffin’s 42-yard field goal, however, gave Alabama its first lead, 23-20.
Georgia needed just one play to end the contest.
After throwing a touchdown to Thomas Brown on Georgia’s opening drive, Stafford ended the game with a perfectly thrown 25-yard touchdown toss to Henderson. Despite letting a pair of 10-point leads slip away, the Bulldogs had prevailed.
Recap and box score:
Georgia would lose its next SEC road game at Tennessee two weeks later, but claimed wins in its final seven games. After a rout of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl, the Bulldogs finished 11-2 and ranked No. 2 in the country.
Following a 6-2 start, Alabama would lose its final four regular season games before topping Colorado in the Independence Bowl to finish 7-6. All six of Alabama’s losses that season came by seven points or less. The first of those and the first of the Saban era came in overtime on this day 15 years ago.
Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.