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Sunday Morning Hangover: 23 Seconds That Flipped the Game

An unlikely drive and unexpected field goal shifts momentum in an instant.

Will Reichard is winning fans over.

vonIn the first half of the Georgia-Alabama game, the Crimson Tide looked in danger of picking up their first loss of the season. The Bulldogs were playing good defense and the offense was one touchdown better than Bama. Stetson Bennett led the Dawgs on a 12 play, 66 yard drive to put his team up 24-17 with 23 seconds remaining and expectations of a happy jog to the locker room for halftime. However, 23 seconds is apparently too much time for this Tide offense.

Here is how it unfolded.

(0:23) Kickoff for 65 yards for a touchback.

1st & 10 at ALA 25

(0:20) Najee Harris run for 14 yards to the Ala 39 for a 1st down.

Whether Alabama was trying to just run out the clock of the first half or actually make a big play is known by very few and open for debate. If it was the former, Najee’s big gain changed the strategy. Had he just gained five yards, that might have ended the half.

Instead, Harris took the ball around the left tackle for a big gain. He could not get out of bounds, so Saban took timeout number two.

(0:16) Timeout ALABAMA #2, clock 00:16

1st & 10 at ALA 39

(0:12) Mac Jones pass complete to Miller Forristall for 14 yards to the UGA 47 for a 1st down.

Bama is in a four receiver set with Forristall in the left slot. DeVonta Smith crosses in front of him taking corner Tyson Campbell with him. This leaves the Tide tight end one-on-one with nickleback Tyrique Stevenson. Because of CBS’s subpar productions, you never get a good look at Forristall’s reception but it was a leaping one-handed grab with the defender all over him. He too could not get out of bounds, forcing Saban to call his last timeout of the half.

(0:10) Timeout ALABAMA #3.

1st & 10 at UGA 47

(0:05) Mac Jones pass complete to Jaylen Waddle for 13 yards to the 34 for a 1st down.

Again with four split receivers, Forristall motions right to overload that side. Jones is under some pressure while going through his progressions until he spots Waddle crossing the field. The pass is a little low and Waddle has to slide to catch it. This action turns out to be fortunate because had he taken another step, the clock likely would have drained down to zeroes.

1st & 10 at UGA 34

(0:03) TEAM pass incomplete.

Alabama quickly ran up to the line and was able to spike the football to stop time with a single second left but the clock seemingly ran out. Astonishingly, CBS’s Gary Danielson was on top of it and correctly stated that the rules say that a team can spike the ball in 3 seconds and still have time remaining.

Nice try, Kirbz.

UGA head coach Kirby Smart tried to con his way out of Bama getting one last play by comically running and waving his team off the field. Fortunately for the Tide, they had a sharp officiating crew who got the call right and put one second back on the clock.

Originally, the umpire hastily spotted the ball and blew his whistle. However, the clock cannot start until down markers are spotted. As you can see above, they were nowhere close to being in place.

After the situation was corrected, Alabama kicker Will Reichard was put square in the spotlight.

To that point in the season, Alabama had scored 21 touchdowns but attempted only three field goals, including one earlier in the game for 33 yards. The other two attempts were from 27 and 34. All had been converted but none were too high on the difficulty or pressure scale.

2nd & 10 at UGA 34

(0:01) Timeout GEORGIA.

As Bama lined up for a crazy 52 yard attempt, there had to be knots in the stomachs of Tide fans while memories of tragic past attempts of this fashion flashed through their minds. Just as Alabama was going to snap the ball, Smart called a timeout to try and freeze Reichard.

If Kirby had been... well, smart, he would have had his entire team come back out to the field. The time that would have taken plus a timeout would have been the ultimate kicker freeze.

After the timeout had expired, Reichard coolly lined up and let his kick fly.

(0:00 - 2nd) Will Reichard 52 yd FG GOOD.

In an instant, the momentum immediately swung to the side of the crimson and white. With part of UGA’s team in the locker room, part in the tunnel, and part on the sidelines, there had to be some confusion and disarray to the Bulldogs’ halftime. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide ran celebrating into their locker room. It is always beneficial to end the first half on a high note.

This momentum carried over to the second half. Both teams returned to the field but Alabama was fired up and Georgia seemed a bit lethargic. The Tide would go on to outscore the Dawgs 21-0 for a 17-point win.

Reichard became the first Bama kicker to connect from 50+ yards since Adam Griffith did so twice in 2015.