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September 22, 2007

No. 22 Georgia stuns No. 16 Alabama in OT

MORE: Georgia jumps back in SEC race | Box score

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. Matthew Stafford and Mikey Henderson crashed Alabama's latest celebration, and touched off one of their own.

Henderson caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to lift No. 22 Georgia to a 26-23 overtime victory over the Crimson Tide on Saturday night.

"When you make plays you erase the what-ifs," Henderson said. "He gave me a perfect ball and I caught it."

The Tide started overtime with the ball but failed to gain a yard and Leigh Tiffin put Alabama ahead with a 42-yard field goal.

The Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) needed one play to win it. After faking a handoff, Stafford lofted a pass to the left side of the end zone for Henderson, who made an over-the-shoulder catch and ended the Tide's hopes of a second straight dramatic victory.

Georgia coach Mark Richt felt good about the play when the saw the safeties creeping up to defend the run, leaving the receivers in man-to-man coverage.

"Matthew threw a beautiful ball," Richt said. "When (Henderson) caught it, I dropped my playbook and started celebrating.

"A game like this makes it all worthwhile. Rings and trophies are nice but the memories we made tonight are going to last a lifetime," he added.

Henderson's first career touchdown catch was a big one for a team that was flirting with its first 0-2 SEC start since 1993.

"We just tried to give Mikey a chance," said Stafford, who completed 19-of-35 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted twice. "He's a speed guy who would just kind of burst by them. I just tried to get him the ball and he ended up making the play for me."

Stafford was excellent on third downs, helping Georgia convert 9-for-19 and keep the ball nearly nine minutes longer than Alabama..

"I think the biggest difference in the game was time of possession and their ability to keep the ball," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "It was really a problem in the first half."

The Tide (3-1, 2-1) had rallied to beat Arkansas 41-38 last week on John Parker Wilson's touchdown pass to Matt Caddell with 8 seconds left, the team's first fourth-quarter comeback win since the 2004 Independence Bowl.

This one might have been even more improbable if Alabama could have pulled it off after scoring 10 points in the final 6:30 to force overtime. Wilson threw for 185 yards, ran for a touchdown and completed 17-of-35 passes.

Last week's win had vaulted the Tide back into the rankings and worked already title-hungry fans into a frenzy. They were even more excited when it appeared Saban's team was going to do it again, only to watch the Bulldogs celebrate instead.

"These are the types of games you come to Alabama to play," Tide cornerback Simeon Castille said. "It was a big game for us and Georgia. We never quit. We just came up a little short."

Georgia, which hadn't gone to overtime since a 2004 Capital One Bowl win over Purdue, nearly got the win in regulation time. Stafford moved the ball downfield in the final 1:09 despite having only one time out to work with, but Brandon Coutu's 47-yard field goal attempt went wide left as time ran out.

The Tide had started its late comeback with Tiffin's 22-yard field goal on a drive kept alive by a pass interference call on fourth-and-7.

Alabama held Georgia without a first down and got the ball back at its own 12 with 4:44 left. Wilson hit Keith Brown down the left sideline for a 43-yard gain after Brown broke free from cornerback Bryan Evans, moving into Georgia territory.

Roy Upchurch's tackle-breaking 10-yard run up the middle gave Alabama first-and-goal from the 6. Then Wilson dropped backed before quickly darting into an open lane and zigzagging into the end zone with 1:09 left.

Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno rushed for 74 yards apiece for Georgia, which jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. Glen Coffee and Terry Grant combined for 142 yards rushing for Alabama.

"You can't execute the way we did in the first half and do some of the things that we did out there and have a chance to be successful against a team like that," Saban said. "We put ourselves in a hole and were unable to overcome it."

For more coverage of Alabama, visit BamaOnline.com; for more on Georgia, visit UGASports.com.



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