They saw Georgia, America’s dynasty at the time, take a meritorious group of TCU horned frogs, batter them, 65-7, and turn them into something akin to prey. They saw Georgia win the first repeat national championship of the college football playoff era (and the first overall in 10 years), become the fourth team to go 15-0, and go 29-1 over two seasons between which the NFL spent late April raiding their roster. They saw the greatness of collaboration even if they didn’t see competitive drama.
As they either looked or ultimately didn’t, a hardy group of Bulldogs dotted the field with the sleek plays and inelegant saves needed to elevate their college football to some of the finest form ever seen. With their pretty urgency nine days after their 42-41 escape from Ohio State in a Peach Bowl national semifinal, they recalled others who cemented their fledgling dynasties with antics, like Nebraska in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl (62-24) or Alabama. in the 2013 Bowl Championship Series title game (42-14). They also reinforced the prevailing idea that the best American football comes from the Southeast, the region of eight consecutive national championships from four different universities.
As it happened: blow-by-blow Bulldogs rout
From the start, the Georgia players ran into the open grasslands of their own creation and their own array of threats, from 25-year-old quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, who raced across the gaping space for a touchdown run of 21 yards that opened the scoring. , to Ladd McConkey catching a 37-yard touchdown pass from Bennett on which McConkey ran so reckless he looked a bit lonely, to tight end Brock Bowers making accurate throwing catches to amass seven catches for 152 yards and a game-changing touchdown in the third quarter.
Bennett went 18 of 25 for 304 yards and four touchdowns through the air. He also rushed three times for 39 yards and two other scores, earning his second consecutive Offensive MVP honor in the national title game.
“What he did tonight was really amazing,” Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. “He probably had his best game of his career.”
Says Bennett: “It seems like the last three or four months we’ve been looking to see if someone can beat us, and we’ve just run out of games.”
And then he finished: “No one could.”
TCU coach Sonny Dykes acknowledged what he was up against after the fact.
“We came up against a really good team,” Dykes said. “We did some unusual things, and it snowballed on us.”
If you needed Georgia to demonstrate they could rush the field, they could do it, with drives like four plays for 70 yards, five for 57, or four for 55. If you needed them to show that she could effectively advance he could, with 11 plays for 92 yards or 11 plays for 66 yards.
Did you need it to show he could put the pliers on a big attack? Yes, it could, harassing TCU spunky quarterback Max Duggan or limiting its biggest player, wide receiver Quentin Johnston, to one catch for three yards.
Bright numbers appeared everywhere, from the 9.3 yards per play Georgia hogged while building a 38-7 halftime lead to Bennett’s passing rating, which soared and stayed at the above the 200 level in the latest testimony in the long upward journey of a quarterback who once transferred from Georgia to a junior college in Mississippi and then returned, while Georgia coaches never suspected that would reach such areas.
TCU (13-2), the most unexpected finalist to date in the nine-year college football playoff era, got just one moment of the hopeful that sustained him throughout a season of hair-raising battles that he won with his demonstrable character. While leading 10-0, he executed a passing play that sent Johnston over midfield and fellow receiver Derius Davis whirling outside. Georgia saw Johnston but lost Davis, who caught Duggan’s pass for a 60-yard gain, setting up Duggan’s two-yard goaltender.
Brewer: TCU was a deserving finalist and college football is better with variety
Then Georgia won 11, 11, 11 and 37 on a 70-yard drive to McConkey’s open touchdown. Then Georgia ran that 92 yards in those 11-yards to Bennett’s six-yard touchdown. Next, Georgia went for 66 yards on 11 plays for Kendall Milton’s one-yard touchdown. Then Georgia got an interception they didn’t need and went for 22 yards on two plays for Bennett’s Adonai Mitchell 22-yard catch on a well-guarded question of high accuracy, proving that Georgia could easily do that too.
Eventually, things drifted into a fourth quarter in which Bennett was able to hold off and calmly welcome a second straight title, one far less nerve-wracking than Alabama’s 33-18 resistance last year that helped Georgia overcome its long-standing hurdle. Branson Robinson, a reserve running back, had seven carries for 42 yards and scored from one yard on his sixth. That made it 59-7 and made it uncompetitive even by College Football Playoff standards, which had its duds.
At that point, Georgia would clearly move to 81-15 during the seven-season tenure of Smart, the former Georgia defensive back who once coordinated the defense of another dynasty, Alabama. Georgia would become the sport’s governing force even as they headed for another quarterback with Bennett eventually finished. And those who look at Georgia, especially those in Georgia Red and Black, would know they’ve seen a rare level in all the years of art.