Georgia suffers crushing loss to end season

Following Georgia’s heartbreaking loss, the Bulldogs, including junior wide receiver Terry Godwin, solemnly make their way back to the locker room.

PHOTO: Justin Hubbard

By Justin Hubbard

justin@lakeoconeenews.us

 

A storybook season for the Georgia football team ended on a sour note Monday night as the Bulldogs fell to Alabama in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship game, 26-23.

No. 3 Georgia (13-2) led No. 4 Alabama (13-1) 13-0 at halftime. The points came off field goals from Rodrigo Blankenship (41 yards and 27 yards) and a touchdown carry by Mecole Hardman. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, those field goals represented missed opportunities to help put away the Crimson Tide, who came charging back in the second half.

Thanks in large part to the play of true freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who played the entire second half after Alabama head coach Nick Saban and his staff benched Jalen Hurts, the Tide were able to rattle off enough scoring drives to draw the game even.

Fromm hit Hardman for an 80-yard score after Alabama got on the board but then the Tide reeled off 13 unanswered points to force overtime for the first time in the history of the CFP national title game. Blankenship made a 51-yard kick on Georgia’s opening possession of the period then Tagovailoa found DeVonta Smith on a 41-yard pass on Alabama’s ensuing drive to win the game.

It took a missed field goal by Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos to get to OT. Senior tailback Nick Chubb said he and his teammates were confident Pappanastos would miss the seemingly easy 36-yard try.

“I know this team would have never stopped believing,” Chubb said. “Even when they went out to kick the field goal to win the game, we knew that something was going to happen in our favor, and they ended up missing it. And we had our chance to win the game, but we just didn't get it done. We never stopped believing.”

Georgia, of course, played a double overtime game just one week prior in the semifinal round of the CFP against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. The Bulldogs won that game, 54-48, to earn a spot in Monday’s title contest.

“You want to play defense first and find out what the other team's got,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart when discussing strategy for overtime. “Fortunately, we've got a good field goal kicker who drilled it, had ice in his veins and made a huge kick that I'll never forget to put us in a situation to have a chance to win, and then we couldn't close it out defensively.”

The Bulldogs’ defense sacked Tagovailoa for a 16-yard loss. The very next play, he connected with Smith to make gold confetti rain down on exuberant Crimson Tide fans and deflated Georgia fans.

“We called four verticals on that play,” Tagovailoa said. “After the sack, we just got up and took it to the next play. … It looked like they were running two trap. The corner trap on that single receiver side, and I held the safety in the middle as the over was coming. I looked back out, and Smitty was wide open so I hit him, and here we are now, thank God.”

The dramatic victory gave Saban his sixth career national title as a head coach and his fifth with the Crimson Tide. For Smart, it meant going back to the drawing board to try and figure out how to break through the next time.

Smart didn’t hesitate to talk about Georgia’s next opportunity to potentially contend for a national championship. Although Georgia will lose several key seniors from this year’s squad – including Chubb and Sony Michel, who accompanied Smart at Monday’s postgame press conference – Smart said the future is still bright even though Monday was dark.

“I can't say enough about the remarkable senior class,” he said. “These two young men sitting next to me, they meant more to Georgia than yards. A lot of heart and soul. A lot of fire. Sony Michel came over and talked to the group several times during the game, inspired those guys. But in overtime we didn't finish when we had to and Alabama did. Give them credit, but I think everybody can see that Georgia's going to be a force to be reckoned with. I'm very proud of this team and this university, and we're not going anywhere.”

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