This time last week, the Georgia Bulldogs were wondering how their talented defense would fare against one of college football's premier offenses.
Now they know.
Last Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Bulldogs caused a turnover on Alabama's first play from scrimmage. That would serve as one of the lone Georgia defensive highlights, as the Crimson Tide used the passing of Mac Jones and the rushing of Najee Harris to rack up 33 first downs, 564 total yards and 33 minutes and 59 seconds of possession time in a 41-24 trouncing.
"We've got a great team, but the team that played better tonight won," Bulldogs senior safety Richard LeCounte III said afterward. "It's not a demoralizing thing, because this happens in football. We'll go back to the drawing board and fix what we messed up tonight and finish out our season.
"We're good. This is just a little bump in the road."
Azeez Ojulari slammed into Jones on the game's first play, causing Jones to float a pass that was intercepted by LeCounte. That would be the only notable blemish for Alabama's redshirt junior quarterback, who completed 24 of 32 passes for 417 yards and four scores.
A 40-yard touchdown pass from Jones to John Metchie less than two minutes into the contest opened the scoring, but Jones wound up turning more to the experienced duo of senior DeVonta Smith and junior Jaylen Waddle. Smith amassed 11 receptions for 167 yards and two touchdowns, while Waddle added six catches for 161 yards and a score.
With Harris rushing 31 times for 152 yards and 4.9 yards per carry, Alabama became the first Southeastern Conference team this century to have a 400-yard passer, two 150-yard receivers and a 150-yard rusher in the same game.
"We were able to contain them a little bit early, and I thought we had some big stops in the red area during the first half, but in the second half we couldn't do it," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "When you play man-to-man on those guys, you've got to get the ball out and make plays, and I thought DeVonta Smith played really big for them. He caught a lot of 50-50 balls, as well as Waddle, so give them some credit.
"Mac Jones is a really good quarterback. It's not mobility. It's protection-oriented with seeing every coverage in his career. The guy has seen a lot of coverages, and he's got some really good vertical weapons."
Georgia's secondary added to Alabama's success by committing four penalties, with LeCounte, Eric Stokes and Tyrique Stevenson getting flagged for defensive holding and Stokes for pass interference on a third-and-goal situation.
"We grabbed them a couple of times," Smart said. "Our guys weren't able to run with Waddle, so they reached out and grabbed him instead of putting their hands on him and stopping him. That was huge. The Stokes penalty was on third-and-goal, and that was huge, because they go from kicking a field goal to first-and-goal.
"You can't do that. Tyrique grabbed a guy. Stokes held on a big third down in the first half. They were going to be fourth-and-forever and would have had to punt. At the end of the day, the pressure they put on you with their vertical passing game with their wide outs probably forces some of those penalties."
LeCounte admitted the penalties were an issue and added there was a lot to take away from the prime-time showdown. Alabama and Georgia continue to look like the two most complete SEC programs by a sizable margin, and a second matchup could be in store for Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium at the league championship on Dec. 19.
"Obviously we can't give up as many explosives as we did," LeCounte said. "We're going to be better next time. We're going to be better next game. We're going to build from here, and there is nothing to hang our heads about.
"It's a learning experience, and they got us this first time."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.