Sports

Georgia Bulldogs take control in 4th quarter, win rematch vs. Alabama Crimson Tide for first college football national championship since 1980

INDIANAPOLIS – Georgia’s 41-year wait is over.

With 54 seconds left in the Monday Night College Football National Championship final game presented by AT&T, Georgia cornerback Kelly Ringo intercepted Alabama quarterback and Heisman Cup winner Bryce Young and returned her 79 yards for the touchdown—the longest pick of six in championship game history— – Consolidating the Bulldogs’ 33-18 win over Crimson Tide and the program’s first National Championship since 1980.

With time running out, Georgia aides blasted into the elevators in the vibratory pressure box at Lucas Oil Stadium, with one voice, “Yes!” As they shouted thunder together.

While it was a familiar match between two teams who faced each other in the 2018 national title game and again in this year’s SEC Championship – both winning Alabama – it was a very different result before a crowd of 68,311 was announced. In the 2018 national championship, Alabama beat Georgia in Overtime 26-23.

Some things change.

Alabama’s seven-game winning streak – a streak that began in 2008 – has been broken. Alabama coach Nick Saban is now 25-2 against his former assistants, with both losses coming this season – Monday night against Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who served under His lead in Alabama, and during the regular season against Texas A&M Jimbo Fisher, who was Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU.

Despite critics lamenting the rematch, there was no shortage of drama or entertainment among the all-too-familiar foes. What started as a slow defensive struggle with no touchdowns in the first half evolved into a display of big plays, with both teams exchanging touchdowns and losing two-point conversions in the fourth quarter. They made a 180-degree different film than they played a month earlier in the SEC Championship, when Alabama tackled Georgia up front for a resounding 41-24 win.

Monday’s title match was filled with costly penalty shootouts, and a strange on-court ruling led Alabama to an 18-13 lead. With 11:35 left, officials ruled that Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett missed the ball when he was sacked by Christian Harris, and that Brian Branch of Alabama got it back just before he ran out of the boundary, landing in the tide on Georgia’s 16-yard line.

At first glance it looked like an incomplete pass, but the ball rebounded before it went out of bounds and was saved by Branch, with video replay showing his foot still inside. After a few plays, Young let loose and found Cameron Lato for a 3-yard touchdown which lifted Alabama 18-13 with a 10:14 left in fourth.

It had started a tough night for Bennett, who was sacked four times, flagged twice for deliberately laying on the floor and was feeling disoriented. In the end, the former player continued to do what he had done throughout his career: overcoming obstacles and opponents.

With 8:09 left, Bennett found Adonay Mitchell for a 40-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bulldogs a perilous 19-18 lead. Georgia, who had a pass game slack most of the night, covered 75 yards in four plays in that drive, but failed the two-point conversion.

With a 3:33 play, Bennett completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to the tight end of freshman Brock Bowers, finally giving Georgia a cushion in a tight game. Bennett would finish the night 17 to 26 with 224 yards and no objections on his way to picking the offensive player in the game.

With the midfielders struggling early on, their strong defenses took center stage. Alabama’s 17-game run that ate 7:45 on the clock ended with a 48-yard field goal attempt when Galen Carter jumped and put his hand on it. It was the first time Alabama had been denied a field goal since 2015. The play set Georgia on the 20-yard line, a drive that would give the Bulldogs their first lead in the game.

It was the first time in the CFP era that neither team scored a touchdown in the first half, and the five field goals tied for more in a BCS/CFP National Championship game. Georgia’s six points were the lowest in the first half of this season.

Early in the third quarter, Georgia had a successful running game, with fans chanting “Zeuuuus,” the nickname for quarterback Zamir White. Bulldogs drove with 84 yards, one touchdown and 6.5 yards per carry on 13 buggies.

About three minutes into the second quarter, Alabama star Jameson Williams sustained a left knee injury after a stunning 40-yard catch that eventually helped Team Tide to a 6-3 lead. Williams, who would have been a first-round NFL pick, was able to walk into the locker room on his own.

It was a huge blow for Alabama’s offense, who entered the game without second receiver, John Mitchie III, who suffered a rupture in the season-ending AFC Champions League in a conference title match. Coming into Monday night, Williams and Mitchie accounted for 56% of the tidal reception yards.

However, that wasn’t enough to derail Tide’s passing game.

Alabama’s eye-catching depth at the center opened the door for new receiver Agee Hall, who entered the game after only being targeted three times throughout the season. With Mitchie and Williams out, he was targeted four times in the first half.

“We have other players who have a chance,” Saban told ESPN’s Holly Rowe in the first half. “There are a lot of guys out there. They have talent, so they have to play competitively. They don’t have the experience, but they’ll get it tonight.”

It wasn’t enough.

The SEC is the only conference to have a team in the CFP each year, and this was the second time that Alabama and Georgia had played for the national title. Before kick-off, a reporter asked SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, “Who will win tonight?”

“I do,” Sanki is rigid.

In fact, it was another win for the entire conference on the bigger stage of college football – again.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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