ATHENS — The red-clad Georgia fans began booing before halftime.
By early in the second half, most of them were headed home, clogging the exits at Sanford Stadium.
On a dreary Saturday between the hedges, the No. 8 Bulldogs added to their reputation for flopping in big games. No. 13 Alabama scored on offense, defense and special teams, romping to a 38-10 victory that left Georgia coach Mark Richt sounding like it was time to start over.
“We’ve got to re-evaluate everything,” he said.
Starting with the quarterbacks.
Starter Greyson Lambert was woeful. Backup Brice Ramsey was even worse.
The Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) trailed 24-3 at halftime. On their first offensive play of the second half, Ramsey threw an interception that was returned 50 yards for a touchdown by Eddie Jackson, sealing the victory for Alabama (4-1, 1-1) in a steady, sometimes driving rain spun off by Hurricane Joaquin.
“Their defense made plays and covered our guys well,” Lambert said. “Sometimes it’s your day. This just wasn’t our day.”
Not even close.
The game was a virtual repeat of Alabama’s last visit to Sanford Stadium in 2008, when a Georgia team that started the season ranked No. 1 came out wearing black jerseys as part of a “blackout,” only to fall behind 31-0 at halftime. A 41-30 victory signaled the start of Nick Saban’s dominating run in Tuscaloosa, which has resulted in three conference titles and three national championships.
The Bulldogs wore their regular red jerseys this time.
It didn’t make any difference.
“We just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities on the front end,” Richt said, referring to a fumble recovery on Alabama’s first possession and a first-and-goal that only produced a field goal. “Then the momentum got away from us, and we didn’t have a counter.”
Jake Coker, with an assist from Lane Kiffin’s play-calling, completed 11 of 16 for 190 yards, passed for one touchdown, and ran for another. Derrick Henry rushed for 148 yards and scored on a 30-yard run that put Alabama ahead to stay midway through the second quarter.
The Crimson Tide avoided its first 0-2 start in the SEC since 1990.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve dreamed of beating Georgia and all those good schools,” said Coker, a transfer from Florida State in his first season as the Tide’s starter. “This is pretty sweet.”
Georgia yanked Lambert late in the first half, but it didn’t matter. He even went back in after Ramsey threw his second interception.
Having completed 33 of 35 passes in the previous two games against South Carolina and FCS opponent Southern University, Lambert was 10 of 24 for 86 yards and an interception on his final throw. Ramsey was even worse (1 of 6 for 20 yards), leaving Georgia with a huge question mark at the most prominent position on the field.
“The guys couldn’t get open,” Lambert said. “And when they did, I just missed them.”
With the game tied at 3, Henry burst untouched through the middle of the line to cap an eight-play, 76-yard drive. Little did the home crowd of more than 91,000 realize, the Tide was just getting warmed up.
Minkah Fitzpatrick darted through the line to block a Georgia punt, the ball bouncing right into his arms at the 1 for an easy touchdown. Then, after Georgia went three-and-out for the sixth time in its first seven possessions, offensive coordinator Kiffin went for the jugular on his team’s very next play.
Coker sucked in the defense with play action and launched a 45-yard touchdown to Calvin Ridley, hitting the freshman receiver right in stride down the middle of the field.
Alabama scored 21 points in 4 minutes, 38 seconds.
For good measure, Coker added a 1-yard run for a touchdown that stretched Alabama’s lead to 38-3 less than 5 minutes into the second half.
Even though the Bulldogs have a favorable schedule the rest of the way and still have a reasonable shot at playing in the SEC championship game, it’s hard to imagine a team that lost so badly on its home field getting any serious consideration in the national race.
The only highlight for the home team was Nick Chubb’s 83-yard touchdown run in the waning seconds of the third quarter. That provided the bulk of his 146-yard effort, which extended his streak of 100-yard games to 13 in a row.
Only a smattering of Georgia fans were still around to see it.