UGA finally got the proverbial monkey off their back Monday night as they beat the Alabama Crimson Tide 33-18 for this year’s College Football National Championship. This is the Dawgs’ second national title and their first since 1980.
UGA dominated every team they played this year and, in fitting fashion, took down defending champion Alabama and coach Nick Saban. Every UGA fan who has had their heart broken (especially by Saban and the Tide) finally got to see Kirby Smart win his first national championship as the Dawgs’ head coach.
The game was a defensive struggle for three quarters. Following a Stetson Bennett turnover in the Bama RedZone, Heisman trophy winner Bryce Young connected with tight end Cameron Latu for a touchdown that put the Tide up 18–12. However, offensive coordinator Todd Monken and the Dawgs didn’t get rattled; in four plays, Bennett found Adonai Mitchell deep down the UGA sideline for a touchdown. The 40-yard bomb gave the Dawgs a 19–18 lead in the fourth.
Like they did all year, the Georgia defense rose to the challenge and got a 3-and-out from the Bama offense. Up front, the UGA offensive line took it upon themselves to take charge and assert their will. Bennett hit freshman All-American Brock Bowers for a touchdown from 15 yards out. The score gave the Dawgs a 26–18 lead with 3:33 left in the game. The Dawgs had been in this exact position in the 2017 national title game and the 2018 SEC championship game. They also had the same opposing team and coach across the field from them then, but this was the year for UGA if there ever was one. Kelee Ringo intercepted Bryce Young and returned it for a championship-clinching touchdown.
Bennett was 17 of 26 for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns. The former walk-on who dreamed of playing quarterback for the Bulldogs made the seemingly impossible happen. An undersized kid from Blackshear who wasn’t recruited out of south Georgia brought a title back to Athens for the first time since 1980 for the Dawgs. We all remember the movie Rudy. This is a real-life Rudy on steroids from a story-telling perspective. A movie will almost surely be made, considering a former walk-on quarterback has never led a team to a national championship.
Smart has done what he was brought to Athens to do: get over the hump and win it all on college football’s biggest stage. Smart was 0–4 against his former boss Saban. Two of the previous losses were in championship games, but Smart and the Dawgs were not going to be denied this year. This team was dominant all year, and they made plays down the stretch when needed. With crucial turnovers, blocked field goals, and pressure on the quarterback, UGA pulled out all the stops. This Dawg team will forever be remembered as Smart’s first championship team. He has recruited at an elite level each ear at UGA and like Alabama, Georgia is built for success for many years to come.
No matter how many future titles Smart brings to UGA, none will be any sweeter than this one. The Dawgs are on top of college football as national champions!