The copious amount of rain that drenched Sanford Stadium on Saturday turned a promising day into a dreary one. A mistake on special teams transformed a potentially big game for Georgia in the same fashion.
A blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick with 4:48 to go in the second quarter was the tipping point that gave the Crimson Tide clear control. What followed was three more touchdowns that were part of 35 unanswered points for Alabama in a 38-10 loss for the Bulldogs.
Fitzpatrick’s play was simple. He sprinted off the line untouched by any Georgia player. He reached Collin Barber as the senior’s foot contacted the ball, sending the ball backwards and Barber to the ground. Fitzpatrick easily picked up the ball for the Crimson Tide touchdown.
The result was like a gut punch to the Bulldogs.
“It definitely gave them momentum,” running back Nick Chubb said. “They took the momentum from us. They were rolling from there.”
The play didn’t determine the game in favor of Alabama, but it seemed to finish off any hope of a Georgia comeback. The Crimson Tide took advantage of a punting unit that has had its share of hiccups in the past few years. What followed from there was the worst home loss for head coach Mark Richt at Georgia.
Richt said that he has a hunch about what went wrong on the punt.
“We want to watch the film to make sure,” Richt said. “But when you have one guy that makes a mistake and blocks the wrong guy, you’ve got a blocked punt.”
The problem from there is what to do to correct it. As Richt explained, pulling one player for the mistake doesn’t necessarily correct the issue. If that occurs, the coaches have to find the right person to fill that gap. Maybe the mistake is enough for the player to understand what he did wrong; maybe it isn’t. The answer isn’t simple.