Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Reggie Davis (81) makes a catch over top of Appalachian State Mountaineers and former Eastside defensive back Dante Blackmon (24) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated Appalachian State 45-6. (USA TODAY Sports: Dale Zanine)
As if opponents didn’t have enough to worry about when it comes to preparing for Alabama, now coach Nick Saban has shown he is not averse to going in for a bit of trickery if things aren’t going the Crimson Tide’s way.
With Bama tied with LSU 17-17 early in the third quarter Saturday night and his team facing a fourth-and-two situation at his own 41-yard line, Saban decided to run out of punt formation instead of booting the ball back to the Tigers.
The snap went to C.J. Mosley, an upback protecting for punter Cody Mandell, and Mosley handed off to Jarrick Williams, who ran around right end for a six-yard gain.
First down, Alabama.
The Tide had to call a timeout because T.J. Yeldon, who was supposed to be on the field, wasn’t. Saban said later that the play was going to be a go if the Tigers lined up in their regular defense.
Williams’ task was pretty basic, he said.
“I just got the ball, saw an opening, and took it,” the junior cornerback said.
The play allowed the Tide to continue its drive for the go-ahead touchdown, and Bama went on to score on its next two possessions as well to turn what could have been a tight battle into a comfortable 38-17 victory.
“It wasn’t perfect, and we didn’t play great in the first half,” coach Nick Saban said as his team improved to 9-0, “but a lot of character out there in the second half to control the line of scrimmage the way we did on offense.”
The Tide improved to 6-0 in the SEC, a game up on rival Auburn in the Western Division race.
If the Tigers beat Georgia or the Tide loses to Mississippi State the upcoming weekend, it would set up an Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl battle for the division’s berth in the SEC Championship Game.
Missouri kept pace in the East race with a 48-17 rout of Kentucky to improve to 5-1 in league play. South Carolina was idle and needs a win over Florida in its next game and a loss by Missouri to retain its shot at a title game berth.
Georgia must beat Auburn to keep alive its chances of gaining a share of the division title.
Game: Georgia 45, Appalachian State 6. Senior QB Aaron Murray set another SEC record when he threw the 115th touchdown pass of his career in the second quarter, breaking a tie with Florida’s Danny Wuerffel, who had 114 from 1993-96. Murray already held the records for total offense (12,896 yards) and passing yards (12,568). The Bulldogs broke the game open with a 17-point third quarter after going to the locker room up only 14-6. They had 568 yards in total offense with 441 coming through the pass and held the visitors to just 253.
Takeaway: The victory wasn’t quite as comfortable for the Bulldogs as it might seem from the final score.
It was a one-score game at the half before they dominated the visitors 31-0 in the second half.
One of the keys was the ability of the Georgia defense to hold the Mountaineers to a field goal on their two trips into the red zone.
The Mountaineers missed a long field goal on their other venture inside Georgia’s 20-yard line when two consecutive penalties moved them back from the 18-yard line to the Georgia 28.
“They had four field goal attempts, and it could have been 14-12,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “The defense did a good job of forcing field goals instead of touchdowns. That was the best thing we did.
“In the second half, we played a whole lot better.”
The Bulldogs held the Mountaineers to just 59 yards total offense over the third and fourth quarters.
Next: At Auburn, Nov. 16.