ATLANTA — Jalen Carter was knocked to the ground and didn’t know what had happened until he looked at the sidelines and saw his teammates yelling. Smael Mondon charged from the edge of his goal on the field and looked back to see the football drop to the left of the uprights.
“People dream of playing in a game like this,” he later said.
Ariane Smith watched the play from the sidelines and froze.
“People are crazy,” he said. “I was still standing there for about 30 seconds before I realized I had won the match.”
At 16, Nazir Stackhouse watched from home as Sonny Michelle stormed into the end zone to win the Rose Bowl and qualify for that year’s national championship, making his mark in Georgia football lore. I remembered. Six years later, Stackhouse was on the ground with Carter, another college football he had another celebration in his playoff semi-finals.
Celebrate the moment…
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) January 1, 2023
Of Georgia’s 42-41 victory over Ohio State in the Peach Bowl, which looked like a loss for Stackhouse and his teammates, Stackhouse said, “This is definitely going to be in the history books.
Those who participated in last year’s national tournament may have felt that this was the end of a long journey. The program had him searching for what he had been missing for 41 years, and finally getting it could be an existential crisis. If not chasing an elusive dream, what is Georgia football his program?The idea of winning another championship so quickly seemed almost greedy.
Yet Georgia is back. This season helped show that Georgia Football is an ongoing journey, not a movie that ends in Indianapolis on the second Monday of 2022. That night, the show culminated in Indy, where he also scored 14 wins against TCU. A much more unlikely championship team — winning the national title in Los Angeles on January 8th.
But wow, did it look like the run ended on Saturday night.
That’s what made the celebration so moving. It was hard to tell how many fans of both teams were in the Mercedes-Benz stadium. But the post-game scene swept the stands of Ohio followers, stunned by the dramatic turn of events. Georgia fans, meanwhile, stayed strong and entered the new year in an electric atmosphere.
Star tight end Darnell Washington, who sprained his ankle during the game, put on walking boots and smiled for a photo. It didn’t seem like it.
Kenny Mackintosh saved Georgia from being blown away, released a news camera, pointed it at the stand, and delivered a B-roll to the surprised TV station.
Stetson Bennett smiled almost shyly in the celebration stand after adding to his legend with another clutch performance that made up for his earlier struggle.
Balancing celebration with preparations for another game, Kirby Smart nudged his players off the field. The head coach met with his co-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp for a moment to discuss something.
“Let’s go!” several players yelled and rushed off the field to the locker room.
But it wasn’t all business.
“We’re going to LA!” shouted one player, echoed by his teammates.
This year’s team has firmly established its identity as a resilient team. Last year’s team melted when they fell behind for the first time in the SEC Championship game against Alabama. This year’s team returned to Missouri to face an even better opponent in a more important game on Saturday night.
“No one points the finger,” cornerback Kamari Lassiter said. “I think it was on display tonight.”
Those calming moments were numerous:
• Georgia trailed 21-7, with the secondary unable to hold on to Ohio State’s receivers and the front 7 unable to put pressure on quarterback CJ Stroud. However, the offense recovered with 17 consecutive points.
• The defense struggled again as the Buckeyes scored their own 17 points as the Bulldogs’ offense barged in the third quarter. Ohio State’s game plan was smart. I decided to run the ball a little bit and rely on CJ Stroud and the receiver. There was no rule that the game had to be balanced. Georgia’s defense seemed to rely too much on creating pressure on the front line and not enough blitzkrieg. And the secondary was beaten consistently.
“They have a lot of credit,” says Smart. “We tried people. We tried zones. We mixed it.”
Georgia trailed by 14 points as the fourth quarter began, losing momentum and overall play on both sides of the ball. Bennett struggled. The defense failed to reach Stroud. The clock was running.
“I never questioned it. It’s a four-quarter game and it’s been proven all year,” said linebacker Hamon Dumas-Johnson. “The team has to win four, not two.”
It all results in a series of pivotal, game-changing moments.
Bullard was called out for targeting Ohio receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. on a play that knocked the Buckeyes star out of the game. Replay, however, dismissed the call, deeming it a clean hit and an important one. Harrison probably caught the pass, and had the targeting been maintained, the Buckeyes could have hammered it in and he took the lead on three of his possessions. Instead, they scored a field goal and he made it 38-24.
“CJ Scramble. He played with his feet and threw the ball up in the air,” said Bullard. ”
Georgia appeared to have fumbled on 4-tenths down, but replays showed Brock Bowers staying in bounds and sneaking the ball past the marker.
“I thought they reviewed it because the whole stadium thought we didn’t get it,” Bennett said. ’ because he said,
Instead of zero points, Georgia added a field goal to make it an 11-point game. And without Smart’s alertness, it could have been even worse.
Ohio State came out in punt formation at 4 and 1. However, Smart noticed that the Buckeyes were not in their normal formation and immediately rushed towards the column. except that called a timeout.
“It was one of those intuitive reactions that I didn’t think was properly lined up to stop it, so I called it timeout,” says Smart.
Ohio Punts. And things got interesting on the first play of the next drive.
A speedy receiver, Smith broke downfield and pulled a 76-yard touchdown pass to help defenders fall midway.
“Definitely so,” Smith said with a laugh. “I hit him with a hard jab in the flank. (Todd) Monken He coaches always tell me to hit, so I did.
A 2-point conversion made it a 3-point game. Ohio State answered with a long drive, threatening to close the game with a touchdown, but Georgia’s pass rush came just in time: Dumas Johnson sacked Stroud at second from 18 and pushed him back to 30.48 yards. A field goal was hit, but it gave Bennett and Georgia a chance to take the ball with 2:43 remaining.
They did so and went downfield with less than two minutes to spare, with Bennett hitting AD Mitchell for a 10-yard touchdown. The only problem was that Stroud, who scrambled and threw downfield, still had 54 seconds left before the drive stalled at 32.
This set up a 50-yard final field goal by Ruggles.
“I was going into the block, and when I looked back, I think it was wide to the left, right?” Lassiter said. “I just had an emotional stream. I got up and ran. I was screaming. I was so excited.”
Receiver Caris Jackson didn’t see the winning field goal, just as he didn’t see the winning field goal two years ago.
“We’re just waiting for the fans and the team to react,” said Jackson, who soon knew what had happened.
Some players said they recalled the Peach Bowl win in Cincinnati two years ago. This time it was an expedition to the national tournament.
In a game that rivaled the drama of that night in Pasadena, California six years ago, Georgia seized their chance to return to Southern California.
Junior nose tackle Stackhouse was philosophical.
“Not every game goes well. I have.”
Mondon summarized why this team was able to play for the title when it had just lost last year’s honors.
“It feels like it came from the heart,” he said. “Everyone in this field has talent.
(Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)