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Georgia's offense shines when it mattered most
INDIANAPOLIS, IN. — Georgia’s offense had been stagnant all night until late in the second half against Alabama.
It all started as the Bulldogs started on their 20-yard line with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter.
On the first play from scrimmage, veteran running back James Cook burst through defenders, rushing for Georgia’s longest gain of the night. His 67-yard attempt put the Bulldogs inside the Crimson Tide’s red zone. Senior quarterback Stetson Bennett then had a quick four-yard draw up the middle, which set up tailback Kenny McIntosh on the following play for a six-yard gain.
On a new set of downs, senior running back Zamir White finally crossed the goal line for Georgia at the 1:20 mark of the third quarter. His go-ahead touchdown gave the Bulldogs a 13-9 advantage after placekicker Jack Podlesny nailed the PAT late in the matchup. The score would remain the same heading into the fourth quarter of the CFP National Championship Game.
Alabama would respond by scoring on consecutive drives, taking an 18-13 lead, and having the momentum.
The Crimson Tide took advantage of a costly fumble by Bennett, although Georgia would get the ball back with 10:17 remaining in the contest. Nevertheless, it didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to score. Bennett connected with freshman wide receiver AD Mitchell in the end zone for a 40-yard score a few plays later. The two-point conversion was no good, but Georgia clung to a 19-18 lead.
Bennett acknowledged that he wasn’t going to make another mistake after the fumble.
"I knew that once I fumbled the ball I was not going to be the reason we lost this game," Bennett said in his postgame press conference. "Coach Monk dialed up awesome play action. We had been running the ball a lot, and I think we went three straight play action and then one deep ball, then we got them to jump offsides because they'd been timing up the snap a lot. But it's the thing that Coach Smart and the whole team has been preaching all year, resiliency, toughness, composure, connection."
Georgia would never give up that lead after the Bennett-to- Mitchell connection for a score. The Bulldogs’ defense would force Alabama into a three-and-out on its next drive, and the offensive unit would get great field position on their 38-yard line with 7:10 remaining.
They would proceed to put together a seven-play, 62-yard drive that took nearly four minutes off the clock.
A majority of the possession involved letting White rush the ball down the Crimson Tide’s throat. In a 3rd-and-1 situation from the Alabama 15-yard line, Bennett dropped back to pass as the defense sent pressure. The senior signal-caller dodged a defender and lofted up a ball to freshman tight end Brock Bowers in the flat, who ran it in for six.
Podlesny sent the PAT down the middle, which extended Georgia’s lead to 26-18 with 3:33 left in the fourth quarter.
Still, Alabama would get one last shot in the closing minutes, but freshman quarterback Bryce Young was picked off by Bulldog cornerback Kelee Ringo on 3rd-and-10 at the 54-second mark. The former five-star defender returned Young’s pass for a pick-six, which solidified Georgia’s 33-18 victory over the Crimson Tide for the national title.
Georgia offensive tackle Jamaree Salyer explained that Georgia’s offense finally came together in the second half and was able to move the ball consistently.
"Running seven minutes off the clock is tough, but we've done it plenty of times before since my time here at Georgia," Salyer said. "That's kind of our calling card. That's what we want to be known as, a team, an offensive line that can finish the game, and we did."
White, who finished with a game-high 84 rushing yards, knew the Bulldogs’ offense would show out when it mattered.
"I feel like we were built for it,” he said. “Camp and the preseason workouts we've been through and just all the things like we're just grinding for, just everything.”
Bennett summed up how he felt in just a couple of words.
“I just knew that those guys beside me had my back,” Bennett said. “I had their back, too.”
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was asked during the postgame press conference that if someone were to tell him five years ago that Bennett would lead the program to the promised land, could he believe those words. His response backed his senior quarterback.
“I'd have thought, hell yeah, we [would’ve'] won a National Championship,” he responded. “I'd have been pumped. Five years ago he was delivering passes like Baker Mayfield against the scout team. There's a lot of guys that saw him on that scout team make plays with his feet, his arm whip and decision making, and we were very impressed.”
Here is the postgame interview: