There is a new king atop the college football throne.
The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 33-18 in Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Georgia avenged its loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and won its first national title since 1980.
Stetson Bennett, Zamir White and the defense led the way for the victors, who were finally able to topple Nick Saban's powerhouse with so much at stake.
Bryce Young's 369 passing yards were not enough for the Crimson Tide, who failed to become the first back-to-back champion of the CFP era.
The Heisman winner threw a pick-six to Kelee Ringo in the final minutes while trailing by eight, which clinched the triumphant victory for the Bulldogs.
Notable Player Stats
- Stetson Bennett, QB, UGA: 17-of-26 passing for 224 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs
- Zamir White, RB, UGA: 13 carries for 84 yards, 1 TD
- Bryce Young, QB, ALA: 35-of-57 passing for 369 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
- Brian Robinson Jr., RB, ALA: 22 carries for 68 yards; 4 catches for 28 yards
- Cameron Latu, TE, ALA: 5 catches for 102 yards, 1 TD
Georgia's Offense Responds to Early Struggles
Kirby Smart has built a juggernaut in Georgia, but the Alabama obstacle has prevented his program from taking the next step. In fact, the Bulldogs entered Monday's game with an 0-4 record against the Crimson Tide under Smart with two of the losses coming in the SEC title game and another coming in the national title game.
It looked to be more of the same for the Georgia offense with Will Anderson and other Alabama defenders shedding blocks, meeting ball-carriers in the holes and pressuring Bennett.
The Bulldogs didn't do much to erase any lingering offensive question marks with just two Jack Podlesny field goals in the opening half, although their defense kept them well within striking distance and opened the door for a second-half turnaround.
Enter the running game, as White built some momentum even on an empty drive that stalled with an intentional grounding on a flea flicker. James Cook then turned in one of the biggest plays of the game with a 67-yard scamper two possessions later to set up White for the lead and the game's first touchdown late in the third quarter.
That's when things went full tilt for the Bulldogs offense in the fourth quarter.
First, Bennett dropped back and lost a fumble deep in his own territory on a play that required a lengthy review to see if it was a pass and whether Brian Branch was in bounds when he recovered it. Then, now trailing, Bennett responded with a beautiful touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell on the next possession to retake the lead.
The Bulldogs kept rolling from there following a defensive stop with White churning yards and clock and Bennett finding Brock Bowers for a touchdown.
While the defense will receive plenty of deserved accolades, especially after Ringo's memorable interception, it was an incredible response from an offense that has received criticism at times this season. Bennett bounced right back from his turnover that temporarily cost his team the lead and is a national champion as a result.
Alabama's Shorthanded Offense Comes Up Short Against Bulldogs Defense
If there was ever a team that could be overconfident as an underdog in a national title game, it was Alabama. After all, it just defeated Georgia by 17 points in the conference title game and entered play with the Heisman Trophy winner under center.
Yet it was clear from the start the Crimson Tide were facing a different challenge against Georgia's daunting defense with players like Nakobe Dean and Lewis Cine flying around and Jordan Davis bringing the power up front. All Alabama managed in the first half was three Will Reichard field goals as the Bulldogs defense tightened up in the red zone with its game-changing speed.
Things became even more difficult for the defending champions when Jameson Williams was helped off the field with a knee injury. They were already without their other star receiver in John Metchie III, which put even more pressure on Young to carry the offense.
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Williams walks to the locker room under his own power 🙏<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/SECNetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SECNetwork</a>)<a href="https://t.co/Z1WVQOMKNm">pic.twitter.com/Z1WVQOMKNm</a> <a href="https://t.co/qOvHCo4ab1">https://t.co/qOvHCo4ab1</a>
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This run was TOUGH 😤<a href="https://twitter.com/AlabamaFTBL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AlabamaFTBL</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NationalChampionship?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NationalChampionship</a> <a href="https://t.co/KCXv1c4iJk">pic.twitter.com/KCXv1c4iJk</a>
Perhaps feeling that pressure, he threw an ugly interception to Christopher Smith on Alabama's opening possession of the second half. That inspired a shift in offensive strategy and commitment to Brian Robinson Jr., who powered his way through arm tackles and picked up key yardage after the catch on short passes.
Even that 17-play drive only led to a field-goal attempt, which Georgia blocked and dramatically swung momentum. Things got more dire when a fourth-quarter drive stalled inside the 5-yard line for a field goal, but the Crimson Tide finally found the end zone on their next possession thanks to a short field following a turnover.
Young hit Cameron Latu for the go-ahead score after scrambling out of the pocket, but that was the last positive for the offense.
It's next possession came facing a one-point deficit and ended quickly with a 3-and-out. Another Georgia touchdown pushed the lead to eight, and Young then threw the pick-six that fittingly ended the game with the dominant Bulldogs defense making the headlines.