PASADENA, Calif. – With one of the Georgia Bulldogs’ most dramatic comebacks ever, a 54-48 two-overtime win over the Oklahoma Sooners in the CFP semifinal game in the Rose Bowl, a spot in the National Championship game this coming Monday night in Atlanta has been achieved by Kirby Smart’s team.
The opponent, of course, will be the Alabama Crimson Tide of Nick Saban, where Smart served as the defensive coordinator for seven years before accepting the Georgia head coaching job prior to the 2016 season.
In a contest where the Bulldogs trailed the Baker Mayfield-led Sooners by 31-14 late in the second quarter and then proceeded to outscore Oklahoma 40-17 the rest of the regulation game and two overtimes, you can imagine the mind-boggling number of Stats That Matter that were instrumental in the Bulldogs’ magnificent comeback and finish.
PLAYS OF 20 PLUS YARDS, OFFENSE AND DEFENSE
Here we go: On a night of one big play after another for both teams, Georgia got a 21-yard pass from Jake Fromm to Javon Wims, a 25-yard run by Nick Chubb, a 20-yard run by Sony Michel, a dashing 75-yard touchdown run by Michel, a 45-yard run by Chubb, another 50-yard touchdown run by Chubb, a 38-yard touchdown run by Michel and a 20-yard Fromm-Wims pass connection. The Sooners, especially in their explosive first half, had their share also: pass completions of 26, 29, 36 and 45 yards by Mayfield, runs of 45, 41 and 25 yards by tailback Rodney Anderson, a 31-yard run by Trey Sermon and a 22-yard scamper by Mayfield.
(TURNOVERS, PENALTIES, CLOCK MANAGEMENT MISCUES, ETC)
Georgia had a few untimely penalties in the first half … a 15-yard personal foul penalty on defensive lineman Tyler Clark, a false start by Kendall Baker and a block in the back call on Prather Hudson on the kickoff receiving team. The most crucial penalty in the second half came in the second overtime period when defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter was whistled for offsides, thereby negating an interception in the end zone by Deandre Baker. Still, the Bulldogs held the Sooners scoreless in that overtime when Lorenzo Carter soared high to block an OU field goal attempt, thus setting the stage for Michel’s 27-yard touchdown run to secure the win.
SPECIAL TEAMS WINS VS. MISCUES
Rodrigo Blankenship, after missing a 48-yard attempt in the first quarter, booted a Rose Bowl record field goal of 55 yards, his career best, on the last play of the first half, a clutch kick that enabled the Bulldogs to pull within two scores, 31-17, at the break and set the stage for the stirring comeback in the second half. Blankenship also drilled a 38-yard field goal in the first overtime to keep Georgia’s win chances alive and continually booted the ball in the end zone on his many kickoffs. Punter Cameron Nizialek also kept the Sooner offense backed up with his kicks, averaging 48.0 on his six punts, including a 61-yarder and three kicks inside the Oklahoma 20.
In what Smart called a “horrible” first half for the normally stingy Bulldog defense, Georgia missed way too many tackles, especially on Sooner tailback Rodney Anderson, who finished the night with 201 yards rushing. But the second half and overtime periods were a different story as the Bulldog defenders clamped down on Anderson and also finished the night with five sacks of Mayfield in allowing the Oklahoma offense just one additional touchdown and a field goal …. OU’s other touchdown coming on a scoop and score of a Michel fumble.
Excellent night in this department as Fromm threw no interceptions in a 20-of-29 passing performance (210 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Georgia lost only the one fumble by Michel, the game’s offensive MVP with 181 yards rushing on just 11 carries and four total touchdowns, including of course the game-winner in the second overtime.
RED ZONE (OFFENSE/DEFENSE)
Striking from long range most of the night, the Bulldogs were 3-of-3 scoring inside the Oklahoma 20 while the Sooners produced points six of seven times inside the red zone, the one they missed on being the big one for the Georgia defense, when Carter rose high in the second OT to block Austin Seibert’s field goal attempt.
Neither team was sufficient here as the Bulldogs converted just 3-of-11 third-down opportunities while the Sooners could convert on just 7-of-18 chances. One would think that wouldn’t be the case in a game where a total of 102 points were scored.
RUN/PASS ATTEMPTS (TOTAL PLAYS)
Big night for the Bulldogs here. In ringing up the 54 points, they ran the ball 34 times for 317 net yards (Chubb had 145 yards and two touchdowns) and passed it 29 times for 210 yards, thus rolling up 527 yards of offense on the night. The Sooners, in defeat, totaled 531 yards, running for 242 on 45 carries and Mayfield passing 36 times and completing 23 for 289 yards.
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