Albert Bell called it “a once in a lifetime deal to win in the last minute like that” after snaring a 17-yard touchdown pass from Mike Shula with only 20 seconds remaining to give Alabama a 20-16 victory over Georgia Monday night in a Southeastern Conference football game.
Georgia took the lead for the first time, 16-13, 30 seconds earlier by converting a blocked punt into a touchdown, but Shula then engineered the winning 71-yard drive without a timeout, moving the Tide the distance by completing four of five passes.
“It was a great feeling to know we could get the job done through the air in a clutch situation when we had to,” Shula, son of Miami Dolphin Coach Don Shula, said after the Tide had spent most of the game using a ground attack.
Said Alabama Coach Ray Perkins: ‘I’m prouder of this victory than any victory I’ve ever been associated with as a player or a coach,”
It was only Georgia’s third home field setback in its last 32 games, and the Alabama players celebrated by clutching sprigs of the hedges surrounding the Sanford Stadium playing field.
“Shula handled the club extremely well throughout the game, especially there at the end when we had to have it,” Perkins said.
Georgia’s Vince Dooley said: “We hung in there long enough to find a way to win, but then celebrated too early, and it cost us tremendously.
“I’m proud of our team for hanging in there. But our defense just couldn’t get any pressure on Shula in that last series.”
Shula started the winning drive by connecting with Greg Richardson for 16 yards, Bell for 26 and Richardson again for 12, before finding Bell alone at the Georgia three on the 17-yard scoring play.
Freshman Terrie Webster blocked a punt in the final minute and junior Calvin Ruff pounced on it for a touchdown to give Georgia a 16-13 lead.
The Bulldogs had closed to within 13-9 with 4:21 to play on freshman Wayne Johnson’s 11-yard scoring strike.
Alabama’s vaunted defense, featuring nine returning starters from last year and led by the play of linebacker Cornelius Bennett, clamped a stranglehold on Georgia’s offense most of the game, holding the Bulldogs to only five first downs until the Tide had established a 13-3 lead with 8:38 left in the game.
One of those came on James Jackson’s 39-yard pass to Jimmy Hockaday to set up Georgia’s first score, a 38-yard field goal by freshman Steve Crumley with only 1:16 left in the first half.
After falling behind 13-3, Georgia freshman Johnson engineered a 76-yard touchdown drive that ended on his 11-yard pass to Hockaday with 4:21 left in the contest.
Bell, from Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, scored Alabama’s first touchdown when he made a brilliant move on Georgia safety Tony Flack in the end zone, turning the defender around as he caught a 16-yard pass from Shula in the right corner of the end zone.
Tiffin drilled a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter following a 38-yard punt return by Richardson to the Georgia 36 and a 41-yarder with 8:38 left following a fumble recovery by Bennett at the Bulldog 28.
The wild finish was set up after Tiffin’s 41-yard field goal when Johnson sparked Georgia’s 76-yard touchdown drive that ended on his 11-yard pass to Hockaday with only 4:17 remaining.