Georgia beats Alabama for first national championship since 1980 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Georgia Bulldogs finally won a revenge game. Finally beat the Alabama Crimson Tide. Finally helped Kirby Smart defeat his former boss Nick Saban. Oh, and finally won the national championship.
The Dawgs defeated the Crimson Tide 33-18 on Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to capture their first title since 1980, ending a title drought that Alabama played a key role in.
Georgia entered the game having lost its previous seven meetings against Alabama, dating back to 2008. Most crushing of all during that stretch was Georgia's loss in the 2018 national championship game, in which the Dawgs led Alabama 13-0 at the half and were one stop away in overtime from taking home the championship. Then, on second-and-26, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa connected with DeVonta Smith for a 41-yard walk-off touchdown and a 26-23 win.
The two teams met in December in the SEC championship, following a season in which the Bulldogs seemed to establish itself as the superior team. Still, Alabama cruised to a 41-24 win to hand the Dawgs their only loss of the season.
Alabama was seeking its seventh national title under Saban, who entered with a 24-1 record against his former assistants. Smart, who was hired by Georgia in 2015 after serving as Saban's defensive coordinator, entered Monday's game having gone 65-15 as a head coach but 0-4 against Saban.
Those losses have been avenged.
The question entering the game was whether Georgia would manage to put pressure on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. That was answered on the opening drive as Jordan Davis sacked Young, initially causing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown but overturned after review. Alabama was held to a 37-yard field goal by Will Reichard on their first possession.
Georgia evened the score at 3-3 early in the second quarter after a diving catch by George Pickens for a 52-yard gain set up a 24-yard field goal by Jack Podlesny.
Alabama answered quickly after Young connected with Jameson Williams for 40 yards, leading to a 45-yard field goal for a 6-3 lead. Williams, though, had to exit after planting awkwardly during the catch and suffering an apparent knee injury.
With Alabama in the red zone on its next possession, Channing Tindall sacked Young on third-and-goal for a loss of 13 yards. That led to a 37-yard field goal by Reichard to give Alabama a 9-3 lead with 7:07 left in the second. Podlesny followed with a 49-yard field goal to pull Georgia within 9-6 heading into the half.
Alabama outgained Georgia in the first half with 216 total yards to 153. The Dawgs also committed seven first-half penalties for 49 yards. The running game was non-existent, with the Bulldogs gaining 26 yards on the ground and the Crimson Tide just 10.
The field-goal kicking exhibition continued in the third, as Alabama lined up for a 48-yard attempt late in the quarter. But Jalen Carter blocked the kick to keep it a three-point game.
On the ensuing play, James Cook had a 67-yard run to put Georgia on the Alabama 13-yard line. Zamir White followed with the game's first touchdown after scoring on a 1-yard run up the middle to give Georgia a 13-9 lead.
Alabama pulled within one after Reichard's fourth field goal of the game made it 13-12 early in the fourth. Christian Harris then sacked Stetson Bennett to force a fumble that initially appeared to be an incomplete pass. It was recovered by Brian Branch, who nonchalantly scooped up the ball while his foot was just barely inbounds to give Alabama possession on the Georgia 16-yard line.
Facing third-and-goal from the three, Young was pressured out of the pocket and threw on the run to Cameron Latu for a touchdown that gave Alabama an 18-13 lead.
Bennett made up for his fumble by finding Adonai Mitchell in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown in tight coverage to put Georgia back in front at 19-18 with 8:09 remaining.
After a three-and-out by Alabama, Bennett capped a seven-play, 62-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Brock Bowers to increase the lead to 26-18 and put Georgia 3:33 away from a national championship — while also cementing Bennett's selection as offensive player of the game. Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine earned the honor on the other side of the ball, racking up seven tackles.
Kelee Ringo then intercepted Young and returned it 79 yards for a pick-six that sealed the victory for Georgia and denied Alabama a second straight title.
Revenge was achieved. Mentee defeated mentor. A long-awaited championship was won.