Highlights: No. 3 Georgia 33, No. 1 Alabama 18

Inside the Bulldogs’ national championship victory

INDIANAPOLIS – No. 3 Georgia defeated No. 1 Alabama 33-18 in the College Football Playoff championship game Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. The victory gave the Bulldogs (14-1) their first national championship in football in 41 years and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide (13-2).

Here’s how it unfolded:

Game ball

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett was named offensive most valuable player and safety Lewis Cine got the defensive MVP trophy. But Bennett, a fifth-year senior from Blackshear and former walk-on, probably deserves to carry the game ball back to Athens. He finished with 224 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-26 passing. After a shaky start, Bennett led the Bulldogs on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to score the come-from-behind victory.

Key Plays

The winning play in the game was actually the third to the last possession for the Bulldogs. It came on Bennett’s 40-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Adonai “A.D.” Mitchell with 8:09 to play. Bennett had just gotten sacked for an eight-yard loss, so Georgia was facing a second-and-18. Mitchell, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound freshman from Missouri City, Texas, ran a streak pattern down the sideline against Alabama’s cornerback Khyree Jackson. Bennett’s high-arcing throw was right on the money and needed to be because Jackson stayed with Mitchell step-for-step all the way through the back of the end zone. The touchdown gave Georgia a 19-18 lead. The Bulldogs attempted a two-point conversion, but James Cook’s run around left end was stopped well short. More importantly, it meant Georgia had the lead again after losing it just two minutes earlier.

Turning point

Back-to-back offensive and defensive plays got the Bulldogs back in the game. First, defensive tackle Jalen Carter blocked Will Reichard’s 48-yard field goal attempt with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter. After recovering the loose ball, Georgia took over at its 20-yard line. On first down from there, Cook found a sliver of room at right tackle, then cut back and turned it into a 67-yard run down the left sideline to the Alabama 13. The Bulldogs score on a 1-yard run by Zamir White and suddently led 13-9 with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter.

Key Stat

After failing to record a sack of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young in the last meeting, the Bulldogs got to the sophomore Heisman Trophy winner four times on Monday and pressured him countless more. Linebackers Channing Tindall, Nolan Smith and Robert Beal each recorded sacks and defensive ended Travon Walker added a 12-yard sack. In all, Georgia had nine tackles for loss for a total of 50 yards. The Bulldogs also created two turnovers and committed just one, while turning it over themselves three times and creating none against Alabama in the SEC Championship game.

Key development

Alabama got a 40-yard completion to Jameson Williams on first down after Georgia’s second-quarter field goal. But the Crimson Tide lost Williams to what appeared to be a left knee injury in the process. Alabama’s star junior had to be helped off the field by trainers at the 12:26 mark. Will Reichard would convert a 45-yard field goal four plays later and the Tide led 6-3.

What we learned

Georgia has some pretty good special teams. The Bulldogs definitely won that battle on Monday, with junior Jack Podlesny making field goals of 24 and 49 yards, Jake Camarda averaging 44.6 yards on five punts with two downed inside the 10 and Jalen Carter blocking a 48-yard field goal attempt by Alabama’s Will Reichard.

They said it

“I haven’t cried in years, but they just came out after that interception (by Kelee Ringo). When you put as much time and sweat into this game as we do, it just means so much. … And it was the defense that kept us in the game while the offense were stumbling all over our own feet all through the first half.” - Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett.

“The sad thing is I was over there screaming at him to get down. … But that was the right thing to do because it put us up two scores.” - Georgia coach Kirby Smart

“We had a vision of today way back when we made our decisions to come back. We made a gamble and it cashed out.” - Georgia senior defensive tackle Jordan Davis

“Just never beating them before, it was special to me. So many games against them that we were so close and they pulled them out. It’s just nice to finally beat them.” - Georgia running back James Cook

“We congratulate Georgia for the job they did, but nobody can take the SEC Championship away from this team, the Cotton Bowl championship. I’m extremely proud of everything this team had to overcome this season. We just didn’t finish.” - Alabama coach Nick Saban