Things looked bleak at a point for Georgia. The Bulldogs trailed 18-13 after Alabama was able to convert on a touchdown following a questionable fumble from Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett. With their backs against the wall, trailing with 10 minutes remaining, the Bulldogs saved their best ball of the season for the end.
Georgia would go on to score three touchdowns in the final quarter of the game on its way to a 33-18 win over Alabama and the school’s first national championship since 1980.
“I’ve never been around a group of players that really wanted it so bad,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart after the win.
It was not a great start for Bennett, who struggled to make certain throws while stalling out on promising drives. However, a 4 play, 75-yard drive shifted the momentum to Georgia’s side. Bennett found Adonai Mitchell for a 40-yard touchdown on a spectacular catch in the back of the endzone.
From there, he led another drive behind a dominant fourth quarter-power rushing attack featuring Zamir White and James Cook slashing through the Alabama defense. That drive ended with a 15-yard touchdown to freshman sensation Brock Bowers to put Georgia up 26-18.
With 3:33 left, Georgia’s historic defense needed one more stop to cement its legacy in history. Not only did Georgia get pressure on Heisman Trophy-winning Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, but they forced Young, who does not turn the ball over often, to throw a pick-six which essentially clinched the title for Georgia.
“We talked about putting it on our shoulders and it being on us,” said Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean. “When we took the lead, we knew that if they don’t score no more, they don’t win. That’s the only thing that was going through our mind. We took the challenge.”
The celebration began from there. Georgia not only won its first national championship in 41 years but also did it by beating Alabama, the team that had haunted the Bulldogs in the previous four matchups in the Kirby Smart-era at Georgia.
The buy-in from players began way before this game or even this season started. Star defensive lineman Jordan Davis decided to come back and play his senior season in hopes of accomplishing just what the team did on Monday night.
“We had a vision of today what we wanted way back when we were making our decisions to come back,” said Davis. “We took a gamble and cashed out, and it was a big decision on the seniors’ part. We wanted to lead this team the right way. We knew that we had something special brewing, and to see this and to see this season come to fruition and see all of our goals and achieve everything that we wanted, it makes it super special. I wouldn’t change my decision for anything.”
The moment was also sweet for Smart, who said he was even preparing for the worst while Kelee Ringo was streaking down the sideline for the longest interception return in national championship history. What made it especially monumental for Smart was coaching his alma mater to a title.
“Our guys have accomplished that, something special, and as they say, they’ve become legendary, and I want that for them,” said Smart. “It’s not for me, and I know it’s for the Georgia people and all that, but it’s really for these guys that have given so much, and I certainly appreciate what they’ve done.”