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The Tide Has Turned: Bennett leads Georgia past Alabama

January 11, 2022 - 02:57
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    Georgia during the College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., on Monday Jan. 10, 2022. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN. - Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett’s dream became a reality on Monday night.

The former walk-on helped the No. 3 Bulldogs knock off top-ranked Alabama in a 33-18 effort to win the 2022 College Football Playoff national title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Bennett was proud of the way his team performed against the Crimson Tide. 

“I just love this team,” he said following the game.

The Bulldogs’ trailed Alabama 9-6 at halftime as both teams failed to score a touchdown in the first half.

Georgia was the first to find the end zone later in the third quarter. Senior running back Zamir White crossed the goal line on a one-yard rush to take a 13-9 lead with 1:20 remaining.

However, the Crimson Tide would respond by kicking a 21-yard field goal, trimming the Bulldogs’ lead to one point. 

Bennett had a costly fumble on the ensuing possession that gave Alabama the ball on Georgia’s 16-yard line. Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young found wide receiver Cameron Latu in the endzone a couple of plays later to take an 18-13 lead.

That’s when Bennett said the Georgia offense kicked into overdrive, scoring on two consecutive possessions. 

“I just knew there was no way that we were going to let a turnover like that stop us from winning a national championship,” Bennett said. “I wasn’t going to be the reason we lost tonight.”

He proceeded to lead the Bulldogs down the field and completed a 40-yard pass to wide receiver Adonai Mitchell in the back of the end zone, which gave them a 19-18 lead. 

Georgia’s defense forced Alabama to a three-and-out on the following drive and took over with 7:10 left. 

The one-two punch of White and James Cook went ahead and picked up a couple of first downs, which set up Bennett to find freshman tight end, Brock Bowers, for a 15-yard score. 

Bennett pointed out that the Bulldogs’ front-five for paving the way for both White and Cook.

“You saw it, our offensive line mashed them, and we played Georgia football on that drive,” Bennett said. “We weren’t going to be stopped [on that drive.] It felt great handing the ball over and watching those dudes.”

Georgia’s final offensive touchdown was followed up by sophomore cornerback Kelee Ringo intercepting Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young and returning it for six. 

The Bulldogs totaled 364 yards of total offense in the title game, also averaging 6.5 yards per play. They were perfect in the red zone gaining yardage when it mattered in crunch time. In the second half, Georgia racked up 211 yards and scored 27 points. 

Bennett completed 17-of-26 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns against the Crimson Tide. 

The Blackshear, Ga. native acknowledged that he couldn’t take all the credit for the victory.

“It was our defense that kept us in this game when we were stumbling over our own feet in the first half and at the start of the second half,” Bennett said. “We could have done so much better, although we ended up getting the job done when we needed to.”

Bennett also gave praise to offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

“Coach Monk dialed up awesome play action,” Bennett explained. “We had been running the ball a lot, and I think we went three straight play action and then one deep ball, then we got them to jump offsides because they'd been timing up the snap a lot.”

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was asked if he thought five years ago Bennett would win the program a championship and his response backed the senior quarterback.

“I’d have thought, hell yeah, we won a national championship,” Smart said. “I’d have been pumped. Five years ago, he was delivering passes like Baker Mayfield on the scout team. There’s a lot of guys that saw him on that scout team make plays with his arm whip and decision-making. We were very impressed [with him back then].” 

Bennett earned offensive MVP honors for the national championship game. He mentioned after the game he was ready to relax and toast to the victory.

“I think we might celebrate a little bit tonight here in Indy first,” Bennett said. “But I haven't seen my family yet. I just want to go hug them. They're the ones who have been in my corner the entire time, always supported me. That's what I'm looking forward to right now.”

Monday night’s victory marks Georgia’s first national title since Herschel Walker was a freshman in 1980.  

Bennett remained humble after the game. 

“I believe in myself. I think I’m the best quarterback I can be,” Bennett said. “I just love everything about this place, and I wanted to win a national championship here.”