INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Stetson Bennett made the biggest throws of his storybook career and the Georgian defense sealed the greatest victory in program history, beating rival Alabama 33-18 on Monday night for their first title national in 41 years.
Bennett connected with Adonai Mitchell on a 40-yard touchdown to give Georgia a 19-18 lead with 8:09 to go, then joined Brock Bowers for a 15-yard touchdown on a screen for putting the Bulldogs in eight with 3:33 remaining.
The final blow came from Georgia’s dominant defense. Kelee Ringo intercepted a deep ball knocked down over the sideline by Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.
“I just saw the ball in her hands and that’s all she wrote,” said safety Lewis Cine, the game’s defensive MVP.
Instead of going down with just over a minute to go, Ringo took off and behind a convoy of blockers and traveled 79 yards for a touchdown that sparked a wild celebration from the relieved Georgia fans who filled the Lucas Oil. Stadium.
“There’s going to be some ripped apart properties in Indianapolis tonight,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said, paraphrasing late Georgia man Larry Munson.
The Bulldogs (14-1) hadn’t won a national title since rookie Herschel Walker brought them there in 1980. If just breaking the drought wasn’t enough, doing against No.1 Alabama ( 13-2) was to make him feel even better.
“I cried so pretty well,” Bennett said when asked how I felt.
Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide had won seven in a row against the Bulldogs, including the last four against Smart, Saban’s longtime assistant.
Smart returned to his alma mater as a coach in 2016 and has been pursuing his mentor ever since. The Bulldogs have lost two SEC Championship games to Alabama, including one five weeks ago, and the 2018 CFP title game to Tide under Smart.
“I told them we had burned the boats. The only way to get home was through them, ”said Smart as he spoke to his team about the Crimson Tide.
Bennett, the former walk-in starter, finished 17 for 26 for 224 yards and no interceptions.
For most of the first three quarters, the first CFP title game to be a rematch of a regular season game was an old-fashioned Southeastern Conference defensive fight.
The first touchdown of the game came with 1:20 left in the third quarter. After James Cook interrupted a 67-yard run to bring the Bulldogs into the red zone, three more running games – a face mask penalty by Alabama – brought them into the end zone. Zamir White rose a meter with massive defensive tackles Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis leading the way as blockers. The Bulldogs led for the first time, 13-9.
After Alabama added another placement, the Tide took a break on some odd turnover from the Bulldogs.
As Bennett was shot deep in Georgian territory, he tried to throw the ball. The ball slipped and bounced towards the sideline, seemingly harmless. Alabama’s Drew Sanders casually caught the ball as he ran out of bounds.
Surprisingly, the decision on the field was a fumble, recovered by Tide and the replay upheld the call, giving the ball to Tide in the red zone. A few plays later, Young escaped the rush and found Cameron Latu for a 3-yard touchdown that gave Alabama an 18-13 lead with 10:14 left in the fourth.
Once again, it looked like Georgia wouldn’t be able to break the spell Alabama apparently had on the Bulldogs.
Bennett was 13 for 22 for 141 yards at the start of the next practice, and you could pretty much hear any skeptical Georgia fan wondering why Smart hadn’t turned to his four-star backup QB, JT Daniels, for a spark.
As he has done so many times in a career that started on the Boy Scout team and took a detour to a college in Mississippi, the little Georgia kid nicknamed Mailman has arrived.
Bennett completed his three passes for 68 yards, including a long strike to Mitchell for a touchdown with 8:09 left that gave the Bulldogs a 19-18 lead after a failed 2-point conversion.
The Bulldogs’ defense cracked down on Young, forcing a three-and-out on the Tide’s next drive, then Georgia got to work to seal a long-awaited championship.
Young finished 35 for 57 for 359 yards with two interceptions and was sacked three times after Georgia failed to shoot him in the SEC title game.
“We played one hell of a game against a hell of a team for the first three quarters of the game,” said Saban, who was denied his eighth national title, seventh with Alabama in the past 13 years. “No one can take the SEC Championship away from this team, the Cotton Bowl Championship.
“We just didn’t finish the way we were supposed to. “
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