INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The No. 1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs made history Monday night with a 65-7 win over No. 3 TCU in the College Football Playoff Championship game here at SoFi Stadium. The victory made the Bulldogs (15-0) the first repeat national champions in the playoff era, which began in 2014, and the first since Alabama went back-to-back in 2011-12. Georgia coach Kirby Smart was also defensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide at that time.
Here’s how Monday’s game went:
TCU’s Max Duggan scored on a 2-yard run shortly after completing a 60-yard pass to Derius Davis that brought the Frogs to within 10-7 with 4:45 remaining in the first quarter. How did Georgia respond? After a 27-yard kickoff return by Kearis Jackson, the Bulldogs gained 11 yards each on its first three plays from scrimmage. Then quarterback Stetson Bennett hit a wide open Ladd McConkey for a 37-yard touchdown pass. The 4-play, 70-yard scoring drive made it clear to TCU that it was going to be in for a long night. And it was, allowing a championship game record 38 points in the first half and giving up 371 yards in the first two quarters.
One won’t suffice. Give one each to the Bulldogs’ 3 B’s – Brock Bowers, Javon Bullard and Bennett. Bowers, the sophomore tight end, went over 100 yards receiving in the first half with 5 for 102. He finished 7 for 152. After giving up a first down with a defensive holding penalty on third down in the first quarter, Bullard made every conceivable explosive defensive play the rest of the game for the Bulldogs – two interceptions and a fumble recovery. The turnovers set up 17 points, including the final touchdown of the first half with 26 seconds remaining. Bennett became the first UGA player to go over 4,000 yards in total offense and passing in a season in the opening two quarters. Bennett set the single-season mark for passing yards (4,036) as the old mark was 3,893 by Aaron Murray in 2012.
TCU simply couldn’t get its defense off the field in the decisive first half. That was primarily because of Georgia’s penchant for converting third downs. The Bulldogs were 4-of-5 on that critical down in the opening 30 minutes. And a lot of them weren’t cheap, including a 12-yard run by Bennett on third-and-10 and a 24-yard completion to Bowers on third-and-15. That contributed to the Horned Frogs’ defense being on the field for 18:47 of the half.
What we learned
Smart and Bennett will go down as the greatest coach/quarterback tandem in Georgia history. While it was the Bulldogs’ fourth consensus championship overall, no UGA team has ever repeated as national champion. And while there are still eight months to go before the 2023 season gets underway, the Bulldogs already are being posted as a preseason No. 1 by the many “way too early” Top 25 predictions being offered going into Monday’s final.
They said it
“Probably what he’s going to do tonight. Maybe not to get into the ‘Pappy’ (bourbon). He’s 25, though.” -- Georgia coach Kirby Smart on what he was saying to Stetson Bennett as they walked off the championship podium arm-and-arm.
“I don’t know what happened tonight. We ran into a really good team and we did some very uncharacteristic things and it snowballed on us. And that hasn’t happened to us one time this year that we haven’t been able to fight our way back and figure out a way to get back in the game or win the game. We weren’t able to do it tonight.” -- TCU coach Sonny Dykes on the lopsided outcome
Georgia: There will another national championship parade in Athens. While an official date has yet to be announced, the Bulldogs are expected to be celebrated on campus next Saturday. The official ceremony, like last year, will be conducted at Sanford Stadium. However, the south side of the 94-year-old facility will be closed due to ongoing construction.