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Georgia Ends 41-Year Championship Drought with Win Over Alabama

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Georgia running back Zamir White (3), celebrates a touchdown in the third quarter of the national championship game against Alabama. | Image by AJ Mast, The New York Times

Georgia snapped its 41-year championship drought by beating Alabama 33-18 in the championship game Monday night in Indianapolis. 

The Bulldogs relied on defense to secure the win just like they did all season. Georgia (14-1) allowed just 30 rushing yards, stifling Alabama and clinching only the second championship in program history — more than forty years after their first in the 1980 season. 

“I hope it doesn’t take that long again,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said postgame. “Go Dawgs!”

The Bulldogs’ game-sealing moment came with less than one minute remaining. With Georgia up 26-18 and Alabama having one last drive to tie the game, freshman cornerback Kelee Ringo intercepted the ball and ran it back 79 yards for a touchdown

It was fitting that a defensive play sealed the game for Georgia. Their defense has been the team’s calling card all season; the Bulldogs entered the championship game allowing just 9.6 points per game, the best in the nation. Georgia did not allow any opponent to score more than 17 points nearly all season. The only exception was Alabama in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship game on December 4, when Georgia lost 41-24.  

The Bulldogs got their revenge for that game, their only loss of the season, and topped it off with a crowning achievement for their head coach Kirby Smart. Smart played college football at Georgia and was an assistant for Alabama under their head coach Nick Saban for several seasons. Smart is only the second of Saban’s former assistants to defeat the legendary coach in a head-to-head matchup after Jimbo Fisher led Texas A&M in their victory over Alabama earlier this season.

Following the humbling loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game, The Bulldogs seemed to regain their confidence in their dominating 34-11 semifinal win over Michigan. Georgia failed to sack Crimson Tide quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, Bryce Young, even once in the SEC championship game. However, in the national championship game, the Bulldogs pressured Young all game, forcing him into two interceptions. 

In the second quarter, Georgia got their first sack against Young of the team’s two matchups when linebacker Channing Tindall dropped him for a 13-yard loss, forcing the Crimson Tide to settle for a field goal. The first half was a battle of field goals, with Alabama leading 9-6 at halftime.  

Alabama entered the fourth quarter leading 18-13, but the Bulldogs scored 20 unanswered points in the final period. Georgia took a lead they would not relinquish when quarterback Stetson Bennett connected with Adonai Mitchell for a 40-yard touchdown pass with 8:09 left. The Bulldog defense then forced a Crimson Tide punt on the ensuing possession, setting up another Georgia scoring possession capped by Bennett’s 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brock Bowers with 3:33 remaining. That made the score 26-18, leading Ringo to seal the deal with a final interception return.

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