September 23, 2007

Throttled on third

It started with a Georgia screen pass to Sean Bailey for 20 yards on a third-and-8 play from midfield on the Bulldogs' opening drive. It ended with John Parker Wilson missing DJ Hall on a third-and-10 in overtime.

And in Alabama's 26-23 overtime loss to Georgia at Bryant-Denny Stadium, just about every third down in between went the Bulldogs' way as well. Efficiency on the money down told the tale in Alabama's first loss of the season, and coach Nick Saban said as much in his post-game remarks.

"I think the biggest difference in the game [was] in terms of time of possession and their ability to keep the ball as they were 9 of 19 on third-down situations," Saban said. "It was really a problem in the first half."

On its opening drive alone, Georgia converted on third-down distances of eight, six and eight yards to open a quick 7-0 lead. The Bulldogs eventually converted six of their first seven third-down tries. The Crimson Tide, by contrast, converted only three of 15 third-down tries.

"On the first three third downs, and the first drive they scored on were all screens," said Saban. "And we didn't pick them up correctly and, if we did try to pick them up correctly, we didn't have them covered."

In fact, Alabama was just one of 10 through three quarters, it's lone conversion coming on a second-quarter crossing route to Mike McCoy for a gain of 11 on third and 10. That drive ended with a fourth-and-one incompletion.

Alabama began to improve its third-down performance in the second half, stuffing Brannan Southerland for no gain on a third-and-1 play in the third quarter, and later forcing an incompletion on third and 11. But the defensive stops were too few and too late to make a difference on the scoreboard.

Asked if Georgia's consistency on third down created fatigue in the second half for the Crimson Tide defense, UA linebacker Prince Hall said: "It only created frustration."

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