By Omar Ureña
January 11, 2022, INDIANAPOLIS, IN.
The Bulldogs started with determination, they’re focused on winning this game, the defense was stoic and strong as they walked the field before kickoff, they really wanted to hunt down Young, they wanted his bright crimson helmet, they came here with the pure intention of dominate, Devonte Wyatt (95) showed discipline and ease in his pregame warm-up, absorbing the moment, believing this was the night to transcend in college football. The Bulldogs arrived there showing respect for each of their teammates and their thirst for glory was immense as the crowd filled the stands of Lucas Oil Stadium.
It’s only the first quarter and it seems Alabama is afraid of the Bulldogs, these heavy dogs find spaces in the flat zone. It is a defensive game. Georgia failed with its offense and it was time for the Heisman Trophy winner to shine. Bryce Young is in the biggest game of his life and his numbers so far: 9 of 13 for 64 yards with a 110.6 passer rating.
Alabama is stopped by Lewis Cine (16), a creature of the night built to pummel enemies. Cine attacks to inflict more pain and hits. The Tide opens the score with a field goal. Alabama 3 Georgia 0.
Bryce searches for Jahlee Billingsley but finds the fearless secondary Bulldogs in the middle of the field. The momentum is on Georgia’s defensive side of the ball moving like tremendous fireballs at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, brand new red chassis cars with their numbers on them, #41 Channing Tindall and #31 William Poole already have half a sack each.
That gives Kirby Smart’s offense a fighting chance. The intensity is blossoming, the desire to be a champion growing within the hearts of the Bulldogs. The phenomenal Stetson Bennett (13) threw a majestic 52-yard pass to George Pickens, we knew it, Georgia was going to attack them after Texas A&M caught them in College Station in the regular season, even the Gators exposed them in the swamp.
The second episode evolves into this defensive war. The Dawgs’ front seven are stopping the sixth-leading scoring offense. The Purple Tide’s defense has reduced the red and white and black attack, which is ranked #9, scoring an average of 38 points per game during the season. The difference lies in the fact that Alabama in the season allowed 31 touchdowns and Georgia only 12 touchdowns, a difference of 19 touchdowns is significant for the duel for the national supremacy.
The story for this year’s film is titled Stetson Bennett who is heading to consolidate a miracle. Stetson looks to the right and finds Jermaine Burton, who catches the ball and carries it to the Alabama 8-yard line. Despite the quick pass to one of the trips that crossed the field, the Dawgs missed the target, getting only 3 points. The game is tied at 3.
The best moment in Alabama’s explosive drive was Bryce Young’s 40-yard pass to Jameson Williams that slipped to the Bulldogs’ 35, but the Bulldogs’ defensive line pressured and allowed coach Bill O’Brien’s offense to only 3 points. Georgia’s front seven showed up on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium confident that they were going to dominate in the trenches. Alabama 6 Georgia 3.
Alabama takes advantage of one-on-one matchups. The stunning QB #9 hit a 61-yard pass down the left side of the field to Cameron Latu who was heroically tackled by Keele Ringo (5) at the 8-yard line, saving the Georgia team which was against the wall in the end zone. The Dawgs are barking mad, that’s all, they have to stop and Channing Tindall bites Bryce behind the line of scrimmage, getting sacked for a 13-yard loss on the Georgia 19. It’s a strategic defense matchup at its best. The Crimson Tide falls on Stetson who is knocked down by Dallas Turner but Georgia gets 3 points. Alabama 6 Georgia 6.
It’s the third quarter. Alabama is back, the mighty Cine explodes against Robinson, the Purple Tide rises high. They’re on the 5-yard line, there’s pressure from the Bulldogs, Alabama is suffering because J. Carter blocks Will Reichard’s 48-yard field goal attempt. The crowd gets mesmerizingly loud and the offense knows this is the time to hit in the end zone.
Zamir White runs as fast as an Indycar in the Indianapolis 500, exploding down the middle, rushing 19 yards to midfield. Alabama’s LB Jordan Battle again becomes that other hard-starting race car, to chase down at full throttle to crash because they’re still the national champions. Alabama gets the ball back and Byron Young tries to come back, the Bulldogs defense comes back stronger, the spark that all the fans in the stadium needed is withering when #29 safety Christopher Smith steals the ball.
It’s a battle just to gain 1 yard. Georgia is sitting behind, only pressing with 4. Allowing short passes. Robinson crashes and rebounds to Cine Lewis for a first down. Georgia stops the attack and starts its own, accelerating with the force of a Maserati through the city of racing, inspiring the entire state of Georgia. Zamir White ends the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:20 left in the third quarter. Georgia 13 Alabama 9. Zamir describes the motivation he was feeling:
“Yes, sir, like my mindset was just to keep on grinding and just keep on chopping, just trusting my linemen, and yeah, just keep on chopping and keep on running my feet. That’s it really.”
It’s the final quarter of the championship game. Alabama is back with Bryce throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to Latu Cameron. Alabama’s defense hits hard again, and Dallas Turner sacks Bennett at the Georgia 40. The #13 gets up and slams a 40-yard right-hand pass to Adonai Mitchell for a terrific touchdown. Alabama 18 Georgia 19.
In this dogfight, Alabama is on fire, but even more on fire is the Godzilla, Jordan Davis, making one of the biggest plays when he tackled Robinson for a 2-yard loss, 3 and out for the Tide. The elephant is getting weaker and Davis knew this was the moment of truth, to find out who Coach Smart’s Bulldogs really were, the best defense in the country.
“Going into that fourth quarter we knew we had to have it, 15 minutes of hard work, because everything we worked for over this past year since the Cincinnati game last year was coming down to this moment.”
With fire in their hearts and because they see the beast about to fall, the Georgia team finishes strong. On a third-and-one at the 15, Bennett throws a touchdown pass to #19 Brock Bowers. The Alabama fans are shocked, the madness and the happiness of the Georgia fans goes through the roof of a high energy level at Lucas Oil Stadium on a cold night outside.
On the next drive, #29 C. Smith avoids a complete pass as a harbinger of a stunning interception by Keele Ringo, who just caught that ball out of the air to the sound of roaring fans and the red stands vibrating with fireworks for such a huge win against the Alabama dominance, returning the ball 79 yards to sprint like Mario Andretti and cross the finish line with a game-sealing touchdown. What a great defense from Georgia! The leading tackler was Cine with 7 tackles.
The victory of the student surpassing the teacher. Coach Kirby Smart and the rabid and proud bulldogs who did everything they dreamed of doing, smashing the Purple Tide and punching them in the face until they collapsed. The rest of the game was just finishing off multi-national champion coach Nick Saban’s Purple Tide, not tonight, they fought and that’s good enough.
And that was just the beginning of an emotional journey for all the fans and scholars. We saw Wendy Whittington’s joy, she’s the Assistant Athletic Director of Ticket Operations at University of Georgia Athletics. We witnessed how former players, family were on the field feeling champions because the guys worked hard to make it happen.
We saw nose guard Zion Logue (96) praying with his mother before the battle, we saw the agony and frustration of the Alabama players on their way to the locker room, tears rolled down, this is it, this is the game to live or die and Alabama was the oppressor of Georgia for years.
We saw Stetson Bennett, who we talked about all season on ‘Swagger Time’ (Rocksportsradio.net); Tirus Bravo, Primetime García, Chacho Vázquez and I talked about him, about how great his story is. He finished the game 17-for-26 for 224 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions and an incredible 163.1 QB rating. We were there to speak with him in the ecstatic moment of diving into victory and we asked him for a message for all his fans across borders and Spanish-speakers in the United States.
“It’s amazing, thanks for the support, go Dawgs!”
And that’s how fleeting it was, for a few seconds we recorded his voice before we saw him vanish in the cloud of confetti receiving the warmth of his parents’ love in a hug that melts eternally on the winners’ podium, in the end he’s just a kid who dreamed of being the Georgia’s offense pilot since he was a boy because he just wanted to have fun and make history by leading his team to the National Championship like no other quarterback had ever done.
GEORGIA 33 ALABAMA 18 (F)
Follow Omar Ureña on twitter: @omarurena_