3:30 PM ET, October 5, 2002
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- In the end, the smallest man on the field showed just how tough Georgia really is.
Billy Bennett kicked a 32-yard field goal with 38 seconds left as the Bulldogs (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead and recovered to beat No. 22 Alabama 27-25 Saturday.
Alabama's Anthony Madison, left, defends against Georgia's Fred Gibson in the end zone during the first half.
"I was just thinking that we do this in practice everyday,'' the 5-foot-8, 168-pound Bennett said. "I saw time running down and I thought, 'Oh goodness, this is coming down to me.' ''
Thomas Davis picked off Brodie Croyle's pass on the next play from scrimmage to seal the win for Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC), the last remaining unbeaten team in the conference.
The Bulldogs are off to their first 5-0 start since 1982 and snapped a seven-game losing streak in Tuscaloosa.
"It's just a great victory,'' coach Mark Richt said. "I'm proud to be with a group of men that made some history here.''
The Crimson Tide (4-2, 1-1 SEC) scored two touchdowns in a 63-second span midway through the fourth to take their first lead, 25-24, with 8:24 left. Croyle was stopped short on the subsequent 2-point conversion, but wasn't sure he didn't make it.
"That's the ref's opinion,'' the redshirt freshman said. "I had to have been pretty close.''
The Bulldogs couldn't get anything going on their next possession. But the Tide couldn't get a first down either, thanks in part to a sack by David Pollack, who earlier had blocked a field goal attempt.
Damien Gary's 15-yard punt return gave Georgia the ball back at the Alabama 34 with 3:45 to play.
The Bulldogs' Musa Smith rushed six straight times for 19 yards against the SEC's top run defense, setting up Bennett's kick.
Earlier in the week, former Auburn coach and Georgia All-American Pat Dye had said the Bulldogs weren't "man enough to beat Alabama.''
Instead, the Bulldogs outrushed the league's top running team 161-109, behind Smith's 21 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown. Alabama had averaged 318 yards on the ground its past three games.
"What he said helped motivate us some,'' Richt said of Dye's remarks. "It does help a little bit when you're tired and want to quit and your manhood's questioned.''
Georgia's David Greene was picked off twice but still hit Terrance Edwards for a 37-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth to make it 24-12. He finished 15-of-27 for 224 yards.
He was victimized by an unusual interception to cap Alabama's rapid-fire comeback. First, Croyle faked the handoff to Shaud Williams, then leaped over Bruce Thornton across the goal line to cut it to 24-19 with 9:27 left. Two plays later, Fred Gibson bobbled a pass, Charlie Peprah swiped it out of the air and raced 35 yards for a touchdown.
"I stole it and just went to the house,'' Peprah said. "I just thought, 'We need to put them away.' ''
Greene had taken charge late in the third after Smith did much of the early damage.
The sophomore completed 4 of 5 passes for 87 yards and wasn't fazed by an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. Gary caught a 17-yard pass on third-and-10 but then celebrated a bit too much while facing the Georgia fans. Greene hit Edwards down the left sideline for the touchdown on the next play.
Croyle was 16-of-29 for 197 yards with a touchdown in his second start for the injured Tyler Watts.
Tailbacks Shaud Williams and Santonio Beard ran for just 44 and 30 yards, respectively.
"We never got in rhythm offensively. And they kept us off-balance with their great running game,'' Alabama coach Dennis Franchione said.
The Bulldogs appeared determined early to answer the pregame questions about their toughness, running the 226-pound Smith right at the strength of Alabama's defense and taking a 14-3 lead. Smith gained 86 first-half yards against the Tide, who came in ranked seventh nationally in both rushing offense and defense.
Smith capped Georgia's opening drive with a 15-yard touchdown.
He got his second wind on the last drive, keeping the ball in the middle of the field for Bennett.
"I wish we had two Musas,'' Richt said. "He got a little fatigued. We had to give him some fluids, but he was man enough to come back.''