Georgia captures elusive victory over Alabama

The victory marks their third-ever title and ends a 41-year drought


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Walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennett led the Georgia offense to a resounding victory in the CFP Final.

Sam Rausch, Contributing Writer

In a clash of two SEC powerhouses, Georgia shook off their demons from the SEC Championship and emerged victorious with a 33-18 win over Alabama to claim their third-ever national title. The win ended a 41-year long championship drought. Despite struggling early, senior walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennett’s clutch play late in the second half, along with two touchdown passes, brought the Bulldogs to victory. Bennett finished the game with 17 completions for 224 yards and two touchdowns, earning him Offensive MVP honors. 

The Bulldogs defense also held strong throughout the game, holding Alabama to one touchdown and five field-goal attempts while also adding four sacks along the way. 

The secondary was a key fixture in the defense’s success, forcing two interceptions including a game-clinching pick-six by freshman phenom Kelee Ringo. Lewis Cine, a junior safety, earned Defensive MVP honors.

With the pick-six, Georgia had finally done it. After years of heartbreak, the Bulldogs overcame early offensive woes to win their first national championship since 1980. After the interception, Bennett was seen overcome by emotion on the sidelines.

This was not the first time these two SEC foes met this season. Just over a month ago, the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide met for their conference championship. 

In their championship meeting, Georgia’s hopes for an undefeated season were dashed as Alabama quarterback Bryce Young threw for 421 yards and three touchdowns, leading Alabama to a 41-24 victory. However, 36 days later, the results were different.

 The first half of the contest was dominated by field goals with impressive showings from both defenses. 

To begin the second quarter, Alabama’s drive opened with a 40-yard reception to junior wide receiver Jameson Williams, who suffered a severe knee injury at the end of the play. Alabama then jumped to a 6-3 lead after junior kicker Will Reichard connected on a 45-yard field goal.

Following another Georgia three-and-out, Young passed to redshirt junior receiver Cameron Latu for a 61 yard gain, setting up another field goal for the Crimson Tide.

After several underwhelming drives, Bennett began to show signs of life, moving the offense to set up a 49-yard field goal from junior kicker Jack Podlesny to make the score 9-6 before the half. 

To open the second half, long runs from junior Zamir White brought the Bulldogs inside enemy territory, but an intentional grounding penalty stalled their efforts.

Fortunately for Georgia, on Alabama’s fourth field goal attempt of the night, sophomore defensive lineman Jalen Carter blocked Reichard’s 48-yard try.

In response, Georgia opened its next drive with a 67-yard run from senior James Cook, followed by a one-yard touchdown run from White to make the score 13-9. Alabama followed the score with a field goal from Reichard to cut the lead to 13-12.

In a momentum-shifting play, a sack from junior linebacker Christian Harris forced a Bennett fumble, setting up Alabama inside Georgia’s 30-yard-line.

Latu’s 3-yard catch gave Alabama its first touchdown of the night, but a failed two-point try kept the Alabama lead at 18-13. 

Midway through the fourth quarter, Bennett gathered himself and marched the Bulldogs offense down the field on consecutive drives. 

A perfectly placed 40-yard touchdown pass from Bennett to freshman Adonai Mitchell gave Georgia the slight 19-18 edge over Alabama with 8:09 to go in the fourth quarter.

On their next offensive opportunity, Bennett once again brought the Bulldogs within scoring distance and cashed in with a 15-yard completion to freshman tight end Brock Bowers in the endzone to extend the Bulldogs’ lead with 3:33 to play.

To seal the game, on third-and-10 at the Georgia 44-yard-line, Young’s pass was intercepted by Ringo and returned for a 79-yard touchdown. Ringo’s touchdown brought the score to 33-18 and put the game on ice. 

“Did I cry? Yes,” Bennett confessed after the victory. “I don’t think I had cried in years, but there was no holding it back tonight. And I don’t think I’m done crying yet. Not a chance.”

After arriving at Georgia as a preferred walk-on, Bennett left Athens to play at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, MS.

After leading Jones County to a 10-2 record, he elected to re-join Georgia, this time as a scholarship player.

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart expressed how far the once walk-on quarterback has come.

“There’s a lot of guys on that scout team that saw him make plays with his feet, his arm whip and decision-making, and we were very impressed,” Smart said. “To think that it would come this far from that [2018] national championship to this one, what a story.” 

“I’ve told you all along, and I think some people maybe didn’t believe me, that I really don’t hear any of that stuff, the social media and whatever, I really don’t,” Bennett said of the doubt that had been placed on him as a walk-on. “Our goal was to do what we did. We did it. Some stuff that someone said about me on the internet isn’t going to change that.”

In an emotional night, the former walk-on defied all expectations and brought Georgia to a thrilling victory. 41 years later, the underdogs — Smart, Bennett and the Bulldogs — won it all.