Georgia won its long-awaited national championship the way it dominated during an undefeated regular season — by relying on its defense.
The Bulldogs allowed only 30 yards rushing in beating Alabama 33-18 on Monday night in Indianapolis. Georgia (14-1) won its first national title since the 1980 season.
“I hope it doesn’t take that long again,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Go Dawgs!”
The clinching touchdown came on cornerback Kelee Ringo’s 79-yard interception return with less than one minute remaining.
It was redemption for a defense that hadn’t allowed more than 17 points in a game before being humbled in its 41-24 loss to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 4.
The defense regained its swagger with its 34-11 semifinal win over Michigan. Winning the rematch with Alabama (13-2) was the crowning achievement for Smart and his defense.
The Bulldogs entered the championship game allowing a nation-best 9.6 points per game.
Held without a sack in the loss to Alabama in Atlanta, Georgia’s defense appeared to break through on the fourth play of the game.
Defensive tackle Jordan Davis reached Alabama quarterback Bryce Young for an apparent sack. Young appeared to fumble, and linebacker Nakobe Dean scooped up the loose ball and ran for what was called a touchdown by the officials.
Following a review, the play was ruled an incomplete pass. Officials ruled Young’s arm was going forward as he was tossed to the ground. The Crimson Tide’s drive continued and ended with a field goal.
Linebacker Channing Tindall gave Georgia its long-awaited first sack of Young, for a loss of 13 yards, in the second quarter as the Crimson Tide again settled for a field goal by Will Reichard.
Georgia took a 19-18 lead on Stetson Bennett’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell. The defense then stopped Alabama without a first down. The Crimson Tide’s punt set up Bennett’s 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brock Bowers to stretch the lead to eight points.
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