Kendrick shines in dominant win over Michigan
MIAMI GARDENS, FL. — Georgia cornerback Derion Kendrick sat at the postgame press conference on Friday night alongside head coach Kirby Smart and quarterback Stetson Bennett displaying a calm demeanor.
The No. 2 Bulldogs had just wrapped up a dominating performance over No. 2 Michigan in the Orange Bowl, which was a contest where he was named the defensive MVP.
Regardless, Kendrick remained collected after an effort in which he had five total tackles, one tackle for loss and two interceptions.
The former All-ACC defensive back remained this way because it’s a situation he’s been in before. Kendrick played at Clemson before transferring to Georgia and was a standout for Brent Venables. He brings in a ton of postseason experience to a young Bulldog secondary room.
“Last year, I just had to keep my head up, keep grinding,” Kendrick said. “God put me in this spot, and the University of Georgia gave me a chance. I just put my head down and kept working.”
Kendrick is not the only individual that caused the Wolverines trouble in the semifinal. Georgia’s entire defensive unit played lights out and wreaked havoc for four consecutive quarters.
The Bulldogs totaled four sacks and seven tackles for loss, respectively. They also were responsible for three total turnovers, which included Kendrick’s two interceptions and a forced fumble.
It was a collective effort that was surely needed following Georgia’s loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs didn’t record a sack or force any turnovers in that previous matchup, so the performance against the Wolverines gave them some confidence.
Kendrick’s two interceptions off Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara provided a spark, and his few key plays also prevented the Wolverines from mounting a comeback.
Georgia inside linebacker Nakobe Dean pointed out that Kendrick’s been locked in since arriving on campus back in early June.
“He brings in confidence in that secondary, a lot of confidence and swagger,” Dean said. “Just to have him, he’s brought a lot of experience. We’re just glad he’s back there.”
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart had nothing but positive things to say about the senior.
“I’ll tell you something about this man right here, there’s not a player on this team that prepares harder than he does,” Smart said. “He comes to practice every day, gives great effort, takes notes in meetings. I’ve never been around a kid so attentive in meetings at the corner position.”
Now, Georgia has advanced to the national championship and will have a rematch against Alabama at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Kendrick made it a point to say that the Bulldogs will be prepared on Monday, Jan. 10.
“As a football player, you’re ready to go out there regardless of what game it is,” Kendrick said. “We’re ready regardless of who our opponent is, but it just so happens it’s Alabama who beat us.”
It’s all about sticking to the basics and it’s something that Kendrick wants to do.
“We’ve got to go back and clean up some things we did,” Kendrick said. “We need to review the film, and just do what we do.”