To quote Ricky Bobby.
“That just happened!”
A moment that some of us thought would never happen occurred late Monday.
The Georgia Bulldogs are national champions.
Here’s how the Dawgs met the keys to a win.
Sack and sack early
One of many overstated things since the SEC title game is Georgia’s lack of sacks against Bryce Young. For the mental mindset of the Georgia defense, it needs to sack Young in the first quarter to not only show that there’s no mental block but also put it in the head of Young and his offensive line that it won’t be a cinch like it was in Atlanta.
The bottom line is that pressuring Young can throw the Crimson Tide off kilter offensively. Georgia needs to do just that.
It didn’t count for a sack or turnover (it almost was the latter), but the first-drive near-scoop and score did one huge thing - it showed that the Georgia defensive front seven was not going to be bullied around this time. There were many turning points in the game, and this was one of them.
Roll with the punches
In a game like this, bad breaks are going to happen. It’s a fact of playing Alabama. Turnovers will take place, ill-time calls will happen. Key here? Don’t let those plays turn the momentum of the game and find a way to bounce back.
Thankfully, none of us were on the sideline during the abhorrent ruling that gave the Tide a cinch touchdown drive. As usual against Alabama, there were stunningly-bad calls, but Georgia overcame them as any team has to fight through bad breaks. Instead of wallering in the foul fortune, Georgia went back to work right after and won a national title.
It’s one of the best traits that Stetson Bennett loyalists have pointed to since early in the year. One of Bennett’s best assets is his ability to extend plays with his legs. Georgia will need Bennett to do that. There are lots of things that need to go right in order to beat Alabama. One is to have your quarterback extend plays with mobility. Look back at any time a team has beat Alabama, and there’s usually been one common trait all the way back to Nick Marshall and more recently, Zach Calzada and Trevor Lawrence - the winning signal-caller was one that could stretch plays out with their scrambling ability. Georgia will need Bennett to do just that.
Bennett took his share of sacks, but he also was enough of a threat to make the Crimson Tide think twice about bringing as much pressure. Even when Bennett was sacked, he did Georgia a great service in not rushing throws out that were turned into interceptions.
Alabama torched Georgia deep last time by. But as we saw in the Orange Bowl, the Dawgs can do the same. Alabama has had a few weeks to adjust to Brock Bowers, and you have to expect that the Tide will have a plan to neutralize him. Going back to the Orange Bowl, the Wolverines slowed Georgia in the second half for a time by applying straight pressure up the middle before the Dawgs made them pay deep. The same needs to happen on Monday.
Even with Bama’s receivers a bit more banged up, they had playmakers - there is a reason those guys are five-stars. Georgia had to make plays after plays with the way Bryce Young can throw it deep, and it could not be more fitting that a pick-six locked things up.
Don’t let up
We’ve all got PTSD. Why Georgia opted to go away from the run in January of 2018 in the second half? The list can go on and on. Perhaps unfairly, Kirby Smart has been tagged as not going for the jugular in big games. This narrative, of course, only appears in games Georgia loses.
The fact is this. Georgia cannot afford to go conservative if it has a chance to do the contrary. If not, that 71 percent of minutes led in the recent meetings will be a painful stat to hear.
Leading by one point in the fourth probably gave us too many bad flashbacks. But with a scoring drive to extend that margin, Alabama needed a touchdown to win, putting them more in a box to where a field goal would not do.
Go National Champion Georgia Bulldogs!