by Ralph D. Rousseau
Indianapolis (AP) — Stetson Bennett made the biggest throw of his storybook career and Georgia’s defense sealed the sweetest victory in the program’s history, clinching the college football playoff title Monday night for his first national title in 41 years. Beat rival Alabama 33-18.
Bennett paired with Adonai Mitchell on a 40-yard touchdown to give No. 3 Georgia a 19-18 lead with 8:09 and then an on-screen 15-yard TD with Brock Bowers to put the Bulldogs up eight added for With 3:33 left.
The final blow came from Georgia’s leading defense. Kelly Ringo throws a deep ball from Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young off the edge. Instead of going down with a little more than a minute left, Ringo took back and forth a convoy of blockers and went for a touchdown from 79 yards that saw Lucas Oil Stadium packed by Georgia fans.
The Bulldogs (14–1) had not won the national title since Herschel Walker had led them in 1980. feel even better.
Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide won seven straight against the Bulldogs, including the last four against Georgia coach Kirby Smart, Saban’s longtime assistant.
Bennett, the former walk-on starter, went on to score 17 for 26 for 224 yards and without a hitch.
For most of the first three quarters, the first CFP title game was an ol’ fashion Southeastern Conference defensive clash to be a rematch of a regular-season game.
The first touchdown of the game came in the third quarter with 1:20 remaining. After James Cook broke a 67-yard run to get the Bulldogs into the red zone, three more running plays – a facemask penalty by Alabama – propelled them into the end zone. Zamir White stood out from a yard with massive defensive tackles as Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis advanced as blockers. The Bulldogs led 13-9 for the first time.
After adding another field goal by Alabama, the Tide caught the brakes on an odd-looking turnover by the Bulldogs.
As Bennett was being driven deep down into Georgia’s field, he tried to throw the ball away. The ball loosened, and bounced to the side, seemingly harmless. Drew Sanders of Alabama caught the ball carelessly as he jogged out of bounds.
Surprisingly, the rule on the field was a fumble, which was recovered by Tide and retained the replay call, giving Tide the ball in the red zone. After a few plays, Young cleared the crowd and found Cameron LaToo for a 3-yard touchdown that put Alabama up 18-13, with 10:14 left in the fourth.
It felt again that Georgia would not be able to break any of Alabama’s spell on the Bulldogs.
Bennett was 13 on 22 for 141 yards as the next drive began, and you could practically hear all of Georgia’s skeptical fans thinking that Smart had fired his four-star back-up QB, JT Daniels, into a Why not change for spark.
As he has done several times over the course of a career that began on the scout team and made a detour through junior college in Mississippi, the small-town Georgia kid’s nickname came from Mailman.
Bennett completed all three of his passes for 68 yards, including a lengthy strike for a touchdown with an 8:09 to Mitchell, which gave the Bulldogs a 19-18 lead after failing a 2-point conversion.
The Bulldogs’ defense put pressure on Young, forcing a three-and-out on the Tide’s next drive, and then Georgia went to work to seal a long-awaited championship.
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More AP College Football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll