Alabama 20, Georgia 16
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) _ Mike Shula threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Al Bell with 16 seconds remaining to lift Alabama to a 20-16 Southeastern Conference victory over Georgia in a game of wild comebacks Monday night.
Alabama, which had led most of the way before falling behind on a blocked punt with 50 seconds left, had no timeouts when it started a 71-yard drive.
Shula, son of Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula, connected with Greg Richarson for 16 yards, Bell for 26 and Richardson again for 12, before finding Bell alone at the Georgia 3 on the 17-yard scoring play.
Bell, a junior college transfer, also caught a 16-yard TD pass from Shula in the second quarter.
Freshman Terrie Webster blocked a punt in the final minute and junior Calvin Ruff pounce 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 scroring 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 scored the only Alabama touchdown when he made a brilliant move on Georgia safety Tony Flack in the end zone, turning the defender around as he caught the 16-yard strike from Shula wide open in the right corner.
Van 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 kicked his 41-yard field goal with 8:38 remaining when Johnson sparked Georgia’s 76-yard touchdown drive that ended on his 11-yard pass to Hockaday with only 4:17 remaining.
Alabama took over on its 20 after the kickoff and converted one first down before being forced to punt on a fourth-and-nine at the 33.
Webster blocked Chris Mohr’s punt, driving it toward the goal. Ruff joined the chase for the loose ball with Webster and Mohr and Ruff pushed it into the end zone from the five, and then pounced on it for the touchdown that gave Georgia it’s only lead of the night, 16-13, with only 50 seconds left in the contest.
The cool-operating Shula, without any time outs remaining, then went to work on the game-winning drive, completing four of five attempts for 71 yards and the score, which came with 20 seconds to play.
Georgia didn’t threaten after that and Alabama had its season-opening conquest in the Southeastern Conference contest originally scheduled for Oct. 5.
The game was moved to Labor Day prime time as ABC televised it nationally as its 25th anniversary of carrying college football.
It was a rematch of the first ABC telecast - Alabama’s 21-3 triumph over Georgia in Birmingham on Sept. 17, 1960.
It also was a matchup of the SEC’s two most dominant powers in the last two decades. Alabama has won or shared 12 titles and Georgia six in the last 21 seasons.