Georgia defeats Alabama for first national championship since 1980 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Georgia Bulldogs ultimately won a rematch. Finally beat the Alabama Crimson Tide. Finally helped Kirby Smart defeat his former boss Nick Saban. Oh, and finally won the national championship.
The Dawgs beat the Crimson Tide 33-18 Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to win their first title since 1980, ending a title drought in which Alabama played a key role.
Georgia entered the game after losing their previous seven meetings to Alabama, dating back to 2008. The most crushing of all during that streak was Georgia’s loss in the 2018 National Championship game, in which the Dawgs led Alabama 13-0 at halftime and were a stoppage in overtime to win the championship. Then, on the 2nd and 26th, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa connected with DeVonta Smith for a 41-yard touchdown and a 26-23 victory.
The two teams met in December in the SEC Championship, after a season in which the Bulldogs appeared to establish themselves as the top team. Still, Alabama took a 41-24 victory to hand the Dawgs their only loss of the season.
Alabama were looking for their seventh national title under Saban, who came in 24-1 against his former assistants. Smart, who was hired by Georgia in 2015 after serving as Saban’s defensive coordinator, entered Monday’s game going 65-15 as head coach but 0-4 against Saban.
These losses have been avenged.
The pre-game question was whether Georgia would manage to put pressure on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. This was answered in opening practice when Jordan Davis sacked Young, initially resulting in a fumble that was returned for a touchdown but called off after review. Alabama was limited to a 37-yard field goal by Will Reichard on his first possession.
Georgia tied the score at 3-3 at the start of the second quarter after a diving catch from George Pickens for a 52-yard gain and a 24-yard field goal by Jack Podlesny.
Alabama responded quickly after Young connected to Jameson Williams for 40 yards, leading to a 45-yard field goal for a 6-3 lead. Williams, however, had to come out after awkwardly planting himself on the catch and sustaining an apparent knee injury.
With Alabama in the red zone on his next possession, Channing Tindall sacked Young in third and on goal for a 13-yard loss. That led to a 37-yard field goal by Reichard to give Alabama a 9-3 lead with 7:07 left in the second. Podlesny followed with a 49-yard field goal to bring Georgia down to 9-6 before the half.
Alabama dominated Georgia in the first half with a total of 216 yards to 153. The Dawgs also committed seven first half penalties for 49 yards. The running game was nonexistent, with the Bulldogs gaining 26 rushing yards and the Crimson Tide just 10.
The field kicking exposure continued in the third, as Alabama lined up for a 48-yard attempt at the end of the quarter. But Jalen Carter blocked the kick to keep a three-point game.
In the play that followed, James Cook ran for 67 yards to put Georgia on the Alabama 13-yard line. Zamir White called with the first touchdown of the game after scoring a one-yard run down center to give Georgia a 13-9 lead.
Alabama came one point closer after Reichard’s fourth basket of the game made it 13-12 at the start of the fourth. Christian Harris then sacked Stetson Bennett to force a fumble that initially appeared to be an incomplete pass. It was picked up by Brian Branch, who casually recovered the ball with his foot barely in-bounds to give Alabama possession on the Georgia 16-yard line.
Facing 3rd and the goal of three, Young was pushed out of the pocket and started the race on Cameron Latu for a touchdown that gave Alabama an 18-13 lead.
Bennett made up for his fumble by finding Adonai Mitchell in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown in tight cover to put Georgia back in the lead at 19-18 with 8:09 to go.
After a three-and-out by Alabama, Bennett capped a seven-play, 62-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Brock Bowers to increase the lead to 26-18 and put Georgia to 3: 33 of a national championship.
Kelee Ringo then intercepted Young and returned 79 yards for a pick-six that sealed Georgia’s victory and denied Alabama a second straight title.
The revenge was accomplished. Mentore defeated Mentor. A long-awaited championship has been won.