Georgia celebrated their first National Title since 1980, with an offense led by former walk-on quarterback, Stetson Bennett, and a defense led by Lewis Cine, the Dawgs overcame and conquered their nemesis, Alabama with a 33-18 win over the Tide.
Here’s how it all went down on Monday night in Indianapolis, Indiana at Lucas Oil Stadium!
After calling tails on the coin toss, the Bulldogs won the toss and chose to defer to the choice to the second half. The Tide elected to receive the opening kickoff, which was brought in by Jojo Earl on a fair catch.
The Tide were set up 1st and 10 at their own 25-yard line. Bryce Young would take the first snap and hand it off to Brian Robinson Jr., who took it to the left edge for a four-yard gain. On play two, Robinson Jr. again took it for a four-yard gain, setting up a 3rd and 2 at the 33. Young then found Slade Bolden in the left flat who took it for an 11-yard gain and a fresh set of downs.
Then it looked as if disaster struck for the Tide as Young was hit by Georgia’s Jordan Davis. He lost control of the ball on first look, which was then scooped up and taken 45-yards for a score by Nakobe Dean. However, upon further review, Young’s arm was going forward and it was called an incomplete pass, keeping the Tide drive alive.
Young then connected with Jameson Williams for 11-yards and a fresh set of downs, as they broke into Georgia territory. After getting into the redzone, the drive would stall out for Bama and they would settle for a 37-yard field goal from Will Reichard to make it 3-0 Alabama with 9:55 left in the first quarter.
Georgia’s first possession started at the 25-yard line and the Tide defense went right on the attack. Christian Harris made his way into the backfield and met Stetson Bennett for a 14-yard sack. A rarely called defensive delay of game penalty against Alabama would follow, making a 2nd a 24 slightly more manageable 2nd and 19. Bennett took the snap on second down, found a hole in the right side of the line, and scampered for 11-yards before dropping the ball and recovering his own fumble.
UGA would then fail to snap the ball before the play clock ran out and an incomplete pass followed when they got the 3rd down-play snapped. This would force the Dawgs to punt, giving the Tide possession at their own 20-yard line.
After picking up a quick first down, the Dawgs defense would stiffen up, forcing a first Bama punt of the game.
Georgia’s second drive of the game took shape from their own 25-yard line. James Cook would start this drive with his first carry of the game, resulting in only a one-yard gain. A rush for no gain from Kenny McIntosh and an incomplete pass from Bennett followed, resulting in a second straight three-and-out to start the game for Georgia.
On the punt, a fair catch from Slade Bolden would be harassed by a closing Ameer Speed, which drew a flag for kick-catch interference, which gave Bama an extra 15-yards and would start at their own 45-yard line. However, this is when the Dawgs defense turned up the notch on the pressure, forcing the first three-and-out of the game on the Tide.
On the ensuing possession, Bennett would finally get the Georgia offense rolling. On 2nd and 8 from the 10-yard line, Bennett connected with Darnell Washington across the middle for nine yards for their first 1st down of the game. Bennett wasn’t done yet, as he took the snap on the following play, dropped back and threw one on a line down field for a diving George Pickens, who snagged it in for a 52-yard gain.
Bennett then found true freshman Brock Bowers for 10-yards as they worked into the redzone ahead of the end of the 1st quarter. They would open the 2nd quarter with a 2nd and 14 as Bennett found Bowers streaking across the middle for five yards. Then on 3rd and 9, Bennett connected with Jermaine Burton on a slant for ten yards and a 1st and goal. This is where things would stall out as Bama forced a 24-yard field goal from Jack Podlesny to tie things up at 3.
On the first play of the drive, Young connected with Williams, who worked his way from the right side across the middle then up the left-center hashes hauling in the pass at the Georgia 44-yard line. He then dug in to make a cut and had his left knee jerk and grabbed it almost immediately. Despite setting Bama up at the 35 of UGA, all concern went to a grimacing Williams, who was helped off the field and into the medical tent. He would then go into the locker room for extra medical attention. He ultimately did not return to the contest.
A subdued Bama would see their drive fizzle out as they settled for a 45-yard go-ahead field goal from Reichard. This made it 6-3 Tide with 11:13 left in the half.
Georgia’s offense would be unable to continue the momentum of their lone scoring drive of the game to this point after quickly being escorted off the field with a three-and-out.
The same could not be said for Alabama, who would break one on a 2nd and 5 from the 31-yard line. Young looked down the left sideline and threw a dart to a streaking Cameron Latu, who made one man miss and stepped it down the sideline for a 61-yard gain. This would set up a 1st and Goal at the UGA 8-yard line.
That wouldn’t startle the Georgia defense, who on 3rd and Goal from the 6-yard line saw Channing Tindall find his way into the backfield off the edge, where he made acquaintances with Young in the form of a 13-yard sack.
Bama settled for a 37-yard field goal from Reichard to make it 9-3 Tide with 7:07 left to play in the half. The ensuing kickoff for the Tide would go out of bounds, giving the Dawgs possession at the 35-yard line. James Cook started the drive out with a four-yard carry. Then it was all Bennett leading the charge. He went four-of-six passing on the drive for 34 yards, setting up a 49-yard field goal from Podlesny. This made it 9-6 with 3:09 left in the 1st half.
Bama’s final drive of the half would stall out after getting across midfield and the Dawgs would be content to run out the clock and take a three-point deficit into the locker room at the half.
Georgia received the opening kickoff of the 2nd half, which would be a touchback. On the first play from scrimmage, Zamir White took it right up the gut for an 11-yard game. He followed that with a 19-yard scamper to the left edge. Bennett would then take a flea-flicker and throw it away without getting outside of the pocket, resulting in an intentional grounding penalty to make it 2nd and 19.
Bennett then found James Cook for an 11-yard pickup. However, on 3rd and 8 from the Bama 43, Bennett would get flushed out of the pocket to the right sideline, where he would throw it away, sending out the punt team for Georgia.
Bama’s opening possession started back at their own seven-yard line. After a three-yard carry from Robinson Jr., Young floated one down the right sideline into the waiting hands of Georgia safety, Christopher Smith, for the first interception of the game.
This gave the Dawgs possession at the Tide 43. However, Bennett continued to get flushed out of the pocket, and they were once again quickly escorted off the field with a three-and-out.
The punt from Jake Camarda would be downed at the two-yard line by Bowers. The Tide would then turn directly to the ground game with Young handing it off to Robinson Jr. three consecutive times as he picked up 25-yards on the three carries.
Young’s first pass after the pick would be a three-yard completion to Traeshon Holden. This started a string of seven straight completions from Young as he put the interception well in the rearview mirror, pushing the Tide into Georgia territory.
They then went back to the ground game with four straight carries from Robinson Jr. up the middle. As they went back to the air attack, the Dawgs cranked up the heat by sending blitz packages right up the middle on the next two plays. With hands in his face, Young was still able to throw catchable strikes to Ja’Corey Brooks and Agiye Hall. However, neither was able to haul in the passes and they would have to settle for a 48-yard field goal from Reichard.
However, Lewis Cine had other plans as he got a hand on it, blocked the kick, and recovered it at the 20-yard line. The offense then rolled into the momentum with a 67-yard scamper from Cook, who was dragged down at the 13-yard line. White took it in from one-yard out two plays later with defensive lineman Jordan Davis leading the block, capping a four-play 80-yard drive that ate 1:58 off the clock.
With Georgia leading 13-9, all the pressure turned to the Tide and Young. He started the drive with a quick six-yard completion to Holden. On 3rd and three, he would go back to Holden for ten yards and a 1st down as the 3rd quarter came to a close. He would open the 4th with a seven-yard completion to Bolden to keep the momentum rolling.
Shortly after that, Young found Hall for 28 yards to set up a goal-to-go situation at the five-yard line. This is where things would once again stall out, and they were forced to settle for yet another Reichard field goal. This time he punched it through from 21-yards out to make it a one-point game with 12:59 left to play.
Georgia’s ensuing possession would see them start the attack on the ground with back-to-back runs, tallying only two yards. Then it was Bennett again getting pressured, with Harris in his face, and forced a fumble on the hit. The ball bounced once toward the sideline, and Drew Sanders nonchalantly grabbed it, thinking it was an incomplete pass. However, the call on the field was a fumble and then remained the call after review.
“I knew once I fumbled the ball I was not going to be the reason we lost this game,” said Bennett afterwards.
This gave the Tide possession at the 16-yard line, and it would take them only four plays to get into the endzone. Young would find Latu for the three-yard score top take an 18-13 lead. They lined up to go for two. However, on the snap, Young rolled out to the right sideline where he was greeted by a slew of Dawgs defenders halting the conversion.
The fireworks were just getting started as the Dawgs went back on the attack. Bennett opened the drive with an 18-yard completion to Burton. He would again go for Burton on the next play. However, Alabama’s Khyree Jackson would deliberately tackle Burton before the ball could find him on purpose because he was beaten on the play. It resulted in a 15-yard penalty, but likely saved a TD.
Three plays later, Bennett went right back to Burton with Jackson in coverage with the Bama defense having jumped offsides. Burton would haul in the 40-yard TD reception for the go-ahead score. The two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score at 19-18 Dawgs with 8:09 left to play.
This would leave the task to the Georgia defense on the flip side, and they would answer the call. It came in the form of a three-and-out, led from consecutive incompletions from Young.
Georgia took over with 7:10 left to play and a one-point lead. They took the attack to the ground with four straight carries, which would result in two 1st downs. Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry would give the Dawgs another first down as they moved to the 24-yard line. Three plays later, Bennett would complete his lone pass of the drive, a 15-yard touchdown connection with Bowers to make it 26-18 Georgia with 3:33 left to play.
Time was running out for the Tide as they took over at their 25-yard line. However, trailing by just eight, all hope was not lost. Young started the drive with three straight completions, moving the ball to the 43. After a one-yard run from Robinson Jr., Young went back to work, connecting with Latu for 12 yards, setting up a 1st and 10 at the Dawgs 44.
Young then looked for Brooks, however, Smith was there to break up the pass for the Dawgs defense. He would go back to Brooks, and it was again incomplete. Then on 3rd and 10, Young looked down the left sideline for Holden to come back on the play.
However, Holden kept streaking down the sideline and Young’s pass was short for a comeback, which Kelee Ringo had his eyes locked in on as he leaped into the air to pick off the pass and then was led by a convoy of Dawgs plays to the endzone. All the while, head coach Kirby Smart was yelling for him to go on the ground, but it was to no effect as Ringo took it in for the score and the final dagger. This made it 33-18 after the point-after try, leaving only 54 seconds left to play.
Young was able to get the Tide back into Georgia territory, but it was too little, too late, as he took three sacks on the final drive. A fitting end to what started as a defensive battle. The Dawgs kept pressure on Young all night and in the 4th quarter the Tide converted just two of six third downs, something Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said was a big part of the plan headed into Monday nights game.
“But we wanted to affect Bryce, and we felt like if we could get off the field on 3rd down we’d be fresher and we’d have a chance to rush better. I thought Coach Lanning, Tray Scott, and Schumann did a tremendous job putting the plan together, but the players carried it out. We really focused on playing man-to-man and doing it better than they did it.”
Do it better they did to a T, as they claimed their place in history forever to be called National Champions.
Bennett was named the Offensive MVP, finishing 17 of 26, passing for 224 yards and two TD’s. A solid note on those stats was that Bennett, after his fumble, finished the game four of four passing for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
Cine was named the Defensive MVP, finishing with 7 tackles on the night, one tackle from loss, and recovered the blocked field goal. He made it clear that the work and drive doesn’t stop now that they have won it all after the game.
“Well, for one, it’s a great honor, of course, what the coaches through recruiting and everything have done for the program, and the goal is moving forward to stay hungry and not get complacent. That’s the worst thing you can possibly do is get complacent.
“Our goal is to continue on being – chasing greatness in terms of how we practice, the things we do. The players, even younger, older guys, being great leaders.
“I would say moving forward that’s just – we’ve just got to continue everything we did this year and just up it a level.”
Written by Adrian Beecher
Edited by Greg Atkins
Image Credit: CFP Images