The grin on Kenny McIntosh’s face was wide and immovable.
Georgia’s exhilarating 42-41 win over Ohio State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl semifinal had long been over as McIntosh sat by himself on a stool inside an interview room deep in the bowels of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. By then, most of his teammates had returned to the locker room and the majority of media had moved on to chronicle the wild night they’d just witnessed.
McIntosh was still shaking his head.
“We fought hard in this game; we had to,” the Bulldogs’ senior running back said. “To not get back on top until 55, 54 seconds, whatever it was, coming back and winning, that’s just crazy, crazy in my eyes. The job’s not done; we’ve still got to get back and get better.
“But it’s crazy, just crazy.”
McIntosh was astonished about what Georgia’s offense had to do and finally did to score the victory over the determined Buckeyes. Knowing they needed to come out firing on all cylinders after a first half that saw them trail 28-24, the Bulldogs instead were shut out in the third quarter. They were outscored 10-0 and now they were behind by 14 points for the second time in the game, this time heading into the fourth quarter.
That’s when the offense had “a little powwow,” as quarterback Stetson Bennett described it. Bennett’s wasn’t the only voice projecting therein. In fact, a bunch of voices were weighing in. McIntosh, Sedrick Van Pran, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint. All of them had the same message.
“Marcus kind of led the whole charge,” said Van Pran, the sophomore center. “He got everybody together, and we all kind of spiraled together and the message was, ‘It’s time to wake up.’ There was no more stalling, no more excuses. Basically, it was, we have to have it now. I’m just happy we were able to get it.”
Said McIntosh: “There were multiple people talking, saying we had to get the job done, go out there and execute. ‘Defense is going to get their stop, then we’ve got to go out and execute.’”
Georgia’s offense gained a grand total of 32 yards and logged two first downs in the third quarter. One of those came on the last play of that period, a 17-yard pass from Bennett to McIntosh on a screen pass.
In the fourth, the Bulldogs were good for 190 yards and 18 points. That initial drive ended in what at the time was a disappointing 31-yard field goal. But Bennett would throw for 190 on 10-of-12 passing including a 76-yard touchdown to Arian Smith and a 10-yard TD catch by A.D. Mitchell.
That last score came almost too fast. The Bulldogs took over at their own 28 with 2:36 to play and negotiated the 72 yards in only five plays. Kearis Jackson lapped up 35 on one, a post right down the middle to the 15. McIntosh got them to the 10.
“It wasn’t a surprise to me that we came back like that in the last two minutes because that’s the way we play and prepare,” McIntosh said. “We prepare real hard on scenarios like that. The coaches try their best to put us in different scenarios so we can know what it takes to come out victorious.”
At the end of it all, it truly was a team effort that got the job done offensively. Bennett was named MVP after passing for 398 yards and three touchdowns and running for another score. But his passes went to 10 different receivers. McIntosh was one of three backs to log runs, with five carries for 70 yards. With Darnell Washington sidelined for most of the game with an ankle injury, Oscar Delp came off the bench to spell Brock Bowers and help the Bulldogs block the edge. Missing for much of the season due to injuries, Mitchell and Smith came through in a big way. Smith led the Bulldogs with 129 yards receiving, and Mitchell caught three of his team-high seven targets for 43 yards.
It was a true team effort if there ever was one. Next stop: Inglewood, Calif.
“I’m lit, I’m lit,” McIntosh said, still smiling. “But I definitely want to help the guys stay focused on the job, because we can definitely play better and we can definitely prepare better and do some little things better. I don’t want anybody taking this trip as a vacation or anything. We’ve got to go handle business straight up.”
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