Rapid Reaction: Unreal! Georgia rallies, survives on missed field goal to beat Ohio State, reach national title game
All looked lost. Georgia’s national title defense was over. And then Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles 50-yard field goal attempt pulled left, and all was right in the Classic City.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett etched his name in Georgia lore – again – with a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver A.D. Mitchell inside two minutes left to give Georgia a 42-41 lead. It was their first lead of the second half, and it took a missed field goal to hang on for the victory.
Georgia returns to the College Football Playoff national championship by the skin of its teeth with one game left to win its second national championship. Bennett finished with 398 yards and three touchdowns passing, holding off an all-time performance by Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, who went for 348 and four scores.
After taking a 24-21 lead late in the first half, Georgia allowed a touchdown to go behind by four at the break. They trailed the rest of the game until outscoring the Buckeyes 14-3 in the final 8:41 for the win.
Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud played like one of the best
Billed as a strength-on-strength contest between one of the most talented offenses in Ohio State and one of the nation’s best on defense in Georgia, the Buckeyes tested the Dawgs early and often in the first half.
After a three-and-out to start the game, Ohio State scored touchdowns on its next three possessions. Stroud connected with wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. for a 31-yard touchdown pass following a missed field goal by Georgia, giving the Buckeyes an early 7-0 lead.
After the Dawgs tied the score, the Buckeyes put together an 11-play, 75-yard drive to regain the lead. A big pass interference call in the end zone on third down gave the Buckeyes additional opportunities, and they took advantage with a 2-yard touchdown run by Miyan Williams to make it 14-7.
Georgia gave the ball back on the first play of the ensuing drive, an interception tossed by Bennett. The play was intended to go down the sideline to running back Kenny McIntosh. McIntosh continued running down the sideline and Ohio State linebacker Steele Chambers cut forward. Bennett chose to throw short, and Chambers stepped in front of the wheel route for the pick. McIntosh, meanwhile, was uncovered behind the secondary on what could have been a walk-in touchdown.
Ohio State again took advantage, scoring on three plays – another pass from Stroud to Harrison Jr. – to put the Buckeyes ahead 21-7.
But the Dawgs are the Dawgs, and they regained their composure, scoring the next 17 points to briefly take a 24-21 lead near halftime. Bennett had a touchdown pass to McIntosh, running back Kendall Milton scored on an 11-yard run, and Bennett tied the score up on a 3-yard run of his own. A Jack Podlesny field goal put the Dawgs in front, but Ohio State added to its total with a 37-yard pass to Xavier Johnson to make it 28-24 at the half.
All told, 38 points were scored between the two teams in the second quarter, 21 by Ohio State. Stroud torched the Georgia secondary, which struggled in the SEC Championship against LSU, for 238 yards and three scores before the break. The Dawgs were more balanced, getting 191 yards and a score from Bennett through the air and 123 yards and two scores rushing. The Dawgs outgained the Buckeyes 314-248 before the break.