INDIANAPOLIS, INDIA — Stetson Bennett IV wept to make it official. Dawg Nation, which has been bursting at the seams with emotions for 41 years, joined in on the quarterback’s tears. It was never going to be easy after all that time. The wait, at least outside Lucas Oil Stadium, was well worth it on a bitterly chilly Monday night.
Kirby Smart appeared to nearly grant permission to the trespassers who forced their way onto the field following Georgia’s largest triumph since the Reagan Administration began to make it a celebration.
“Some property will be torn up in Indianapolis tonight,” Georgia’s sixth-year coach said.
The No. 3 Bulldogs’ 33-18 win over No. 1 Alabama, which at least damaged a dynasty but likely unleashed a celebration for the ages, had already done the damage.
The program of Herschel and Dooley is now tied historically to the mythology of Stetson and Kirby.
With 8:09 left in the game, the quarterback from Blackshear, Georgia, went from walk-on to hero with a go-ahead 40-yard touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell. Smart realized a destiny that began when he turned down many job opportunities while at Alabama before returning to his alma mater in 2016.
There was a lot of heartbreak to be faced. Nick Saban, Smart’s mentor, had an 0-4 record against him. He became the second Saban assistant to defeat the legend (both this season). Whether Saban, 70, is showing any signs of infirmity is a topic for another day.
All it took for Georgia to emerge from the championship abyss on Monday was a historic rally.
With 10:14 left in the game, the Dawgs were behind 18-13 before scoring 20 consecutive points. Kelee Ringo’s pick six set off a celebration that lasted all the way from Indianapolis to Athens.
Dawg Nation couldn’t contain itself, as some supporters came out of the stands to join their heroes in celebration. One of them was Trevor Houghton, who claimed to be a Georgia senior from Houston.
Houghton was questioned if it was worth it when his arms were chained behind his back.
“It was well worth it,” he remarked. “Go Dawgs!” exclaims the crowd.
So, get ready for the tears. Bennett’s eyes welled up to the point where he didn’t even watch the pick six finish. He had not only just beaten Bryce Young for the Heisman Trophy, but he had also seen his aspirations come true by capturing a national championship.
With a little help, at least. Young was sacked three times and intercepted twice. Alabama was a shadow of itself at the end of the game due to injuries.
Let us not, however, make excuses. Georgia rolled to a school-record 14 wins, with the only blemish coming in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama 37 days prior. That result seemed 37 years ago by Monday night.
Bennett, who finished the season with 12 touchdown passes in his last four games, stated, “The tears after the game, that just hit me.” ‘It just means something when you put as much effort into it as we do — blood, sweat, and tears.”
The troubled souls of Dawgs everywhere were cleansed, as were the tortured souls of Dawgs everywhere who always seemed to know something was going to go wrong.
In their previous 95 games, Alabama has only been the underdog twice. Both games versus Georgia were won by an average of 22.5 points.
In rematches like these, history shows that sweeping a team is difficult. Alabama came up short. Saban’s attempt to go back-to-back for the second time at Bama was thwarted by Georgia, which deprived him his seventh national championship (2011-12).
Smart received his first.
“How about this university?” says the narrator. What do you think of these guys?” Smart stated shortly following the game. “There were those on our sideline who stated we weren’t conditioned enough, and it irritated a lot of people.”
In their previous encounter in the SEC Championship Game last month, Alabama ran the Georgia defense off the field. Alabama attempted to do the same on Monday, running a fast pace and relying on Young’s rapid three-step drops. Bama ran 85 plays but had to make do with less space this time. Young was forced to throw to an inexperienced collection of young receivers who lacked the ability to make plays.
The Herschel and Dooley program, which had been a source of frustration for four decades, had finally gotten over the hump, both physically and mentally. Young took a beating. He had to throw a career-high 57 times due to a depleted receiving corps and a stifled rushing game.
This makes up for everything for Georgia. And by everything, we mean Dan Marino of Pittsburgh, who in the 1982 Sugar Bowl threw the game-winning pass with 35 seconds left. We’re talking about Todd Blackledge of Penn State tossing a 47-yard bomb for insurance in a 27-23 win against Georgia in the same game a year later. Herschel Walker won the Heisman Trophy that night, but he didn’t win a second national championship.
We’re talking about Georgia not winning the SEC for another two decades after that. No. 7 LSU beat No. 4 Georgia to get to the BCS Championship Game in 2007. Oh, and who can forget Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa’s heartbreaking loss in the CFP National Championship four years ago, when he struck DeVonta Smith with a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime?
With 12 minutes remaining, Georgia’s fortunes appeared to be sinking once more. The ball left Bennett’s hands on a sack by linebacker Christian Harris, and it was determined that he had fumbled. After a failed two-point convert, defensive back Brian Branch handled the ball inbounds, giving Alabama a short field to go up 18-13.
Georgia running back James Cook remarked, “It’s something you can’t control really.” “We just kept hacking,” says the narrator.
Bennett threw two touchdown passes before the game-winning pick six, and the Tide did not score again. Georgia has won the national championship after much crying and effort.
“I’m ecstatic for the people of Georgia,” Smart said. “In the locker room, I urged the men, ‘Take a picture of this.’… They become legendary, as the saying goes. It’s for all of these guys, not just me.”
Alabama’s flaw was ultimately discovered. It does not have an infinite pool of talent.
Young’s second-favorite target, John Mechie III, was out with a torn ACL sustained in the SEC final game against Georgia. After collecting a 40-yard pass in the second quarter, All-American wide receiver Jameson Williams went down with a left knee injury. He didn’t show up. The secondary had already been afflicted with a variety of diseases. Then Phidarian Mathis, the top defensive end, went out late holding the right side of his chest.
This was meant to be a transition year for Alabama, at least in some aspects. Six first-round draft picks, including three of the franchise’s most potent offensive players, were lost from the 2020 championship team.
Instead, for a Georgia team that has finally gotten over the hump, the real change may have arrived.
“Here’s where to acquire your Alabama CFP national championship T-shirts Monday night,” a local Alabama website announced the morning of the national title game.
So much for not supplying Georgia with additional motivation.
Cigars were optional for those who chose to participate, yet all those years of agony for the Dawgs were gone in the blink of an eye.
The championship gear for the Georgia Bulldogs has been published.
The Dawgs have won the national championship for the first time in 41 years! To commemorate the historic victory, Georgia championship shirts, hats, hoodies, and more are now available for purchase. Now is the time to get your stuff!
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