Dawgs Look To Repeat After Overcoming Buckeyes in Semifinal Thriller
ATLANTA– Since at least 1941, when it was credited to Illinois coach Bob Zuppke, the phrase “game of inches” has been synonymous with college football. That proverb was more applicable than ever on the last night of 2022, more than eight decades later.
Seconds. Inches. The dividing line between success and loss. Enough of those razor-thin time and distance margins went Georgia’s way, as the reigning national champion Bulldogs defeated Ohio State, 42-41, in an all-time classic Peach Bowl College Football Playoff quarterfinal.
An absolute rollercoaster game full of all kinds of emotion, Coach Smart had this to say about the Buckeyes following the Dawgs Peach Bowl win.
“My heart goes out to those guys,” Smart said of Ohio State. “They played well enough to win. We played well enough to win, too. Just well enough.”
Staying true to his name, Kirby made one of the smartest calls in his career. Smart called a vital timeout in the fourth quarter just in time to prevent an Ohio State fake punt on fourth-and-1, which would have been successful if the ball had been snapped in time. Smart said that he saw the Buckeyes weren’t lined up in their usual punt formation, so he called a timeout without help from his coaches on the headset. What some people may not realize is the head coach’s headset has three channels he can shift between: offense, defense, and special teams. Coming off an enormous defensive stop, Smart was tuned into the defensive channel.
Coach Smart prior to his brilliant timeout
“They were saying something on the special teams line, but I wasn’t on that line,” Smart stated. Ultimately, he most definitely lived up to his last name with that type of awareness.
Tight end Brock Bowers was just athletic enough to get his body off the ground and stretch out for a huge first down. The Mackey Award winner was initially ruled short, before a replay review conceded the officials missed the call.
“Brock was pretty dumbfounded,” UGA QB Stetson Bennett IV said.
UGA had to settle for a field goal three plays later, but it turned out to make all the difference in the outcome.
Javon Bullard’s hard hit on Marvin Harrison Jr., which was initially ruled targeting before being overturned, was just legal enough to prevent a touchdown and knocked the superstar wide receiver out for the rest of the game. This hit prevented Ohio State from gaining a three-score lead at the end of the third.
If any of those three plays go the other way, the Buckeyes would have almost certainly pulled off the upset and faced TCU for the national championship next week. Georgia, on the other hand, was ultimately better by inches, if not centimeters.
Bennett, who stamped his name into school history last year with a rally to stun Alabama to capture the school’s first national title in over four decades, was just good enough to expunge numerous earlier mistakes and lead another spectacular fourth-quarter playoff comeback. Bennett’s mistakes contributed to his team being down, but he never was. He showed once again he cannot be counted out.
Stetson had this to say as well, “I felt like there was a 30-minute period where I just played bad football,” And he’s right; he was struggling. With that being said, I believe anyone who is skeptical about Stetson’s clutch gene now has an answer. This man consistently delivers and has Georgia on the edge of becoming a dynasty; no quarterback in school history has had even the slightest level of success as him at the position. You may argue that Belue has, but he threw a mediocre 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in the 1980 run. Not close.
“Freaking, I threw a lateral,” Bennett said this during the postgame news conference, while Smart closed his eyes for a few seconds, bitterly remembering that horrible moment. “Dumb” he said.
But once again, the undersized former walk-on, who is one of sports greatest Cinderella stories, rose to the occasion under enormous pressure and delivered. This game, like many others, was a microcosm of his career—he found a way just when Georgia fans were ready to give up on him, just when the whole public was writing him off.
“It kind of frees you up,” Bennett said after stepping up AGAIN, “You’ve got to. Otherwise, we’re going to lose.” Talk about a winner.
Bennett led three straight scoring drives to bring the game out of inferno in the fourth quarter, in which UGA went into trailing 38-24. Bennett completed 12-of-14 throws for 207 yards and two touchdowns in what very well could have been the final three possessions of his six-year collegiate career. This is the the stuff of legends, elevating him to the mountaintop of UGA quarterbacks in my opinion. You might prefer stats, and I understand. I’ll tell you this though, none of them have delivered like the mailman has.
Bennett completed five straight throws, exploiting the center of the field to get Georgia to the Ohio State 10-yard line before hitting Adonai Mitchell on an out route for the score. Last year, it was Bennett-to-Mitchell for the game-winning touchdown against Alabama.
Bennett summarized the last drive’s mindset:
“It’s in our hands now. Defense stood up whenever we needed them to. Where else would you rather be? Having the ball with two minutes left and if you score, you win the game. I looked around and there was just a whole bunchy of determined, strong stares from all the dudes.”
Except Georgia didn’t have the game won after scoring the last-minute, go-ahead touchdown. Bennett led the Bulldogs downfield so skillfully and just a little too fast that they left 54 seconds on the clock for Ohio State and the brilliant CJ Stroud.
Stroud drove the Buckeyes to the Georgia 31-yard line and did his job, where Ryan Day made a disastrous decision on a night when he coached a brilliant game. Instead of seeking to go closer to field-goal range for kicker Noah Ruggles, he ran the ball on first down. Ruggles was left with a 50-yard attempt, as he came into the game 0-for-4 from 50 yards or beyond. He’s now 0-for-5 after hooking the kick wide left and it wasn’t EVEN CLOSE.
Kenny McIntosh, who rushed for 126 yards and scored a touchdown, saw the decisive kick from the spot where the ball was snapped on the sidelines. When the kick was wide-left, the RB said, “I dropped to my knees, right then and there. Then I ran on the field.”
Bennett was again driven to tears by the passion of the event while standing on the sidelines. Last year, after Kelee Ringo returned an interception for a touchdown, he broke down (just like I did, but in Athens). This time Bennett cried of joy again, before the Dawgs got into victory formation and ran the clock out.
That final play occurred at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2023. The man taking the knee is 25 years old and started college in 2017. His winding path to hero status included a transfer to a junior college, a return to Georgia, and numerous benchings as Smart sought a better quarterback. It turns out he’s always had a national champion on his team—and now perhaps a two-time champion.
Bennett fled the stage after being named the game’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player and was surrounded by well-wishers as he attempted to make his way off the field to the Georgia locker room. Finally, he grabbed an offensive lineman’s back and asked him to lead him to the locker room.
Bennett continued jogging after he was free, his left hand in the air saluting the Bulldogs faithful, able to revel in a moment that had nearly passed him by. Georgia had the inches and seconds on their side Saturday night, and the Dawgs needed them all.
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One thought on “Dawgs Look To Repeat After Overcoming Buckeyes in Semifinal Thriller”
One of the best articles about the PeAch Bowl I’ve read!! Stetson And Kirby need to read it!!! Would make them so proud!!’ You are A star with your writing skills about sports!!’ 🔆🔆🔆🔆🖤❤️🙏🏻❤️‼️‼️‼️🏆
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