They watched Georgia, the American dynasty of the moment, take a worthy Horned Frogs group from TCU, upset them 65-7 inside SoFi Stadium, and turn them into something that looked very much like prey. They saw Georgia claim the first repeat national championship of the College Football Playoff era (and first overall in 10 years), become the fourth team ever to go 15-0, and reach 29-1 over two seasons between which they spent late the NFL. April raided their roster to 15 players, including five defensemen in the first round of the draft.
They saw collaborative greatness even if they didn’t see competitive drama.
“I hope so [Georgia fans] they understand the message I’m going to say,” said Georgia’s seventh-year coach Kirby Smart, a former Georgia player and Georgia’s biggest man. “They cannot take it for granted. You cannot take such opportunities for granted. And they appeared fully. And it’s better that they never get tired because we need them.”
Two thousand miles from Athens, Ga., they saw things they may never tire of. They saw a rugged bunch of Bulldogs sprinkle the field with both the elegant plays and inelegant stops needed to elevate their college football to among the finest forms yet seen. Nine days after a 42-41 rout of Ohio State in the national semifinals of the Peach Bowl, they saw a nice rush that led TCU Coach Sonny Dykes to take “a lot of pride in their performance in the how they played.”
They saw something – really something – that reminded others who decorated their repeated titles with romps, like Nebraska in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl (62-24) or Alabama in the title game of the Series of -Bowl Championship 2013 (42-14), and saw a reinforcement of the towering reality that the best American football comes from the Southeast, the region of eight straight national championships from four different universities.
How it happened: Blow by blow of the Bulldogs’ route
From Monday night’s kickoff, Georgia’s players ran into open prairies of their own making and mirrored their own array of threats, from 25-year-old quarterback Stetson Bennett IV running through open space for a 21 yard touchdown run. that opened the scoring, for Ladd McConkey to catch a 37-yard touchdown pass from Bennett on which McConkey ran unhindered that seemed kind of alone, for tight end Brock Bowers to make accurate catches of accurate throws to collect seven catches for 152 yards and masterful. third quarter touchdown.
If you needed Georgia to show it could drain the field in a hurry, it could do it, with drives like four plays for 70 yards, five for 57 or four for 55. If you needed it to show that you can walk effectively. , he can do it, with 11 plays for 92 yards or 11 plays for 66 yards. If you wanted schemes that left people gapingly open, they had them, and if you wanted precision passes like Bennett’s 22-yard touchdown pass to a well-guarded Adonai Mitchell that made it 38-7 at halftime, they had
“[They] kind of executed a little bit on our misalignments and kept score on those,” TCU linebacker Dee Winters said. “We kept beating ourselves up, overthinking, trying to rush to the ball and things of that nature.”
In defense of that defense, people often undergo a personality disorder in the presence of greatness. Georgia hogged 589 yards with a nice balance of 254 (ground) and 335 (air), and Bennett floated in the quarterback-rating clouds all game long before landing on a delirious 226.9, which Smart called “amazing” and “probably his best game of his career,” and Bennett went 18 for 25 for 304 yards and four touchdowns, rushed for 39 and two more scores, and earned his second consecutive offensive MVP his in the national title games.
“And,” Smart said, “when you have a quarterback who can make the protections and check things and know what the defense is doing, but still beat you with his feet, you’ve got a high-level quarterback.”
Stetson Bennett always had star potential. Just ask the Georgia scout team.
That’s a high-profile quarterback from Georgia who committed to Georgia in 2017, transferred from Georgia to a Mississippi senior college in 2018, then transferred back to Georgia in 2019 even as the his own coaches conspired to make him ignored. Then all these years later, it’s a two-time title quarterback who spent his final quarter of college on the sidelines with calm nerves after Smart called a timeout to give Bennett a curtain call that Bennett said, “The huddle, I told all the guys, ‘What are we doing? Why don’t we have a play?'” Then he understood the reason and felt emotional “in unity, as simple as it is, the last announcement with the guys, you know?”
Yet all the while, something equally artistic happened elsewhere in the game’s statistics, even if it was the kind of art that causes bruises. A TCU (13-2) team that only once gained fewer than 377 yards in a game all season suddenly gained 188. Darlings of an unlikely finalist who rushed for 263 yards in a dream semifinal victory of the Fiesta Bowl on Michigan suddenly rushed for 36. Where 32 pretty first downs went to Georgia, nine gnarly ones went to TCU. TCU’s top player, wide receiver Quentin Johnston, caught one pass for three yards. A portentous early sack saw TCU star quarterback Max Duggan with a fierce committee of defenders around him: Jalen Carter, Nazir Stackhouse and Smael Mondon.
“I mean, they were good up front,” Duggan said. “They had some good blitzes, some good passing pressures. I held on to the ball a little too long, I wasn’t getting through the reads, I was causing problems for the offensive line myself. It was kind of over me. But . .”
But: “They had some good schemes.”
Brewer: TCU was a deserving finalist and college football is better with variety
“As a kid, you know, you always dream about moments like this,” said Georgia defensive end Javon Bullard, who intercepted two passes.
Everything sent that former defender and defensive coach Smart to almost a soliloquy on his defensive scout team, and everything seemed that TCU had encountered something bigger and faster and stronger than he saw. It’s something that reigns — and rains red and black — on football country now, standing 81-15 in the seven-season tenure of Smart, the former Georgia defensive end who once coordinated the defense of another dynasty, Alabama. His last Georgia team would find “consistency in performance [that] it’s hard to find,” Smart said, expressing admiration for that. And those who see Georgia, especially those in red and black Georgia, will know that they have seen a rare level in all the years of art.
“It seems like for the last three of four months,” Bennett said, “we’ve been looking to see if somebody could beat us, and we’ve just run out of games.”
And then he finished: “No one could.”