MIAMI GARDENS, Florida – After becoming his team 34-11 Victory against No. 2 Michigan in a college football playoff semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl on Friday night, Georgia Coach Kirby Smart wasn’t interested in giving his players a celebratory Gatorade shower.
“I’m not interested in celebrating this,” said Smart. “We’re going to look back on this win and it will be great, but we are focused on the task ahead and that is the goal. You worked hard for three to four weeks to get that chance and it was a one Game season, and now it’s another one-game season. “
The task ahead is monumental: victory gives No. 3 Georgia another chance to beat No. 1 Alabama and end a 41-year drought with no national championship.
Less than a month after falling on the Crimson Tide 41-24 in the SEC championship game for the first time this season, the Bulldogs secured a rematch by dismantling the Wolverines at Hard Rock Stadium.
Georgia will play Alabama in the AT&T-presented CFP National Championship on January 10th (8:00 PM ET, ESPN and ESPN App) in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs will try to end a seven-game loss to the Crimson Tide.
“I really never had any questions about this team,” said Smart. “The resilience, the resilience, the amount of character – I’ve seen that all year round. We didn’t play well and we turned the ball and didn’t lose the ball and we played poorly in the red. You can list all the things we did in the last game. That’s all our kids have been hearing for three weeks. “
Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean echoed his coach’s opinion when asked about Queen’s iconic song “We Are the Champions”, which was played during the trophy ceremony.
“Champs not at all. The job isn’t done yet, ”said Dean. “We haven’t done everything to win the Orange Bowl this season.”
Smart will try to beat his mentor Nick Saban for the first time after losing four straight times. The Bulldogs had a head start on each of these defeats, including double-digit leads in three of them. Saban stands 25-1 against his former assistant and loses for the first time this season to Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M.
This is the second time Alabama and Georgia have competed in a CFP National Championship; The Tide won 26:23 in extra time in Atlanta at the end of the 2017 season.
Georgia will try to win its first national championship since 1980. Alabama will seek to win its seventh consecutive title under Saban since 2009 and for the second time in his tenure (2011-12). Saban’s teams stand 9-2 against the Bulldogs while he trains at LSU and Alabama.
It’s been quite a chase for the Bulldogs, who looked overwhelmed in their ugly loss to the tide on December 4th. They overwhelmed Michigan, which played in the CFP for the first time and was enjoying a renaissance under coach Jim Harbaugh. Georgia scored one goal on each of his first five possession of the ball and never poked (the clock was running on the last drive) to build a 27-3 lead at halftime. The Bulldogs will be the first team to score the first five ball possession times in a CFP game.
Georgia put the finishing touches to the Wolverines as a quarterback Stetson Bennett Loft a 39 yard touchdown pass to the running back James Cook 11:11 on the left sideline to create a 31-point lead. Bennett, who was hit in the back by Michigan linebacker Michael Barnett shortly after his throw, raised his arms after Cook slipped behind two defenders for the hit.
Bennett, a former walk-on, played one of the best games of his college career, completing 20 of 30 passes for 313 yards with three touchdowns. It was a much better performance than the last time we played against Alabama.
“I didn’t go out today, despite the crowd, and played well,” said Bennett. “I got out of there and played well and worked hard in the few weeks we had off because my teammates needed me to do it and we needed that to win.”
The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in seven games for a touchdown, with Bennett throwing the freshman a 9-yard touchdown Brock Bowers to the 7-0 lead. It was Bowers’ 12th scoring reception that set a single-season record in Georgia.
Meanwhile, Michigan, who had scored 143 points in their last three games, couldn’t muster up much against a Georgia defense that was surprisingly vulnerable in their last game against the Crimson Tide. The Wolverines flipped the ball three times, dropped four sacks and went 1-1 into the red zone.
The Wolverines were stopped in fourth place at the Georgia 41 after their inaugural possession. Michigan’s offense had only one game longer than 20 yards in the first half – a 42-yard pass to it Roman Wilson Georgia 19. But then the Bulldogs fired Cade McNamara for an 8-yard loss on the next game, and Michigan had to settle for Jake Moody’s 36-yard field goal.
Since Georgia threw countless screen passes, she didn’t allow sack and kept All-American Aidan Hutchinson on four tackles and only one tackle for loss. All-Big-Ten linebackers David Ojabo didn’t have a tackle. Conversely, McNamara was pressured on nine of his first 24 dropbacks and never felt comfortable in the bag.
All hopes of a Michigan comeback in the second half were gone after the ball was flipped on each of his inaugural possessions. Georgia Derion Kendrick intercepted McNamara’s pass in the end zone and then Devonte Wyatt recovered Blake Corumfumbling at Georgia 47.
It was a disappointing ending for the Wolverines, who won their first Big Ten title in 17 years to reach the CFP. They had won their last five games, including a 42:27 win over rival Ohio State and a 42-3 loss to Iowa in the Big Ten championship game. But everything that had worked in the past two months was not up to Georgia’s pace.
“It’s been a great season,” said Harbaugh. “For me it’s one of the best seasons in Michigan football history. We tried to do better. We tried to do better tonight. But it was still a great season.”