The college football champion for the 2021 season was crowned in Indianapolis on Monday night as SEC rivals Alabama and Georgia meet in the playoff’s national title game.
The meeting was a rematch from last month when the Crimson Tide took down the then-No. 1 Bulldogs, 41-24, that earned them a place in the playoff and gave coach Nick Saban his fourth victory in four tries against former assistant Kirby Smart.
Georgia brings an end to a 41-year drought between titles that dates back to the freshman season of all-time great Herschel Walker in 1980. The Bulldogs also lost to Alabama in the 2017 title game, the other previous meeting of conference foes in the national championship.
Below is full coverage from the game:
The long wait is over for Bulldogs fans after 41 years without a national title. With an offense that dominated in the last third of the game, Georgia wore down Alabama in the fourth quarter and scored three touchdown on four possessions to put them ahead 26-19 late and then Kelee Ringo sealed the 33-18 victory with 79-yard interception return off an errant pass by Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.
The running game was key as the Crimson Tide defense appeared to wilt late. James Cook and Zamir White found consistent room and Stetson Bennett delivered two key touchdown passes to complete a comeback after Alabama had taken an 18-13 lead in the fourth quarter.
Celebrations in Athens should be intense after the long overdue championship drought that started when Hershel Walker and Georgia won in 1980 was finally over.
The loss denies Alabama its seventh national title under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide showed cracks throughout the season but played outstanding in the SEC title game and in the semifinal against Cincinnati. They just fell short with the loss of star receiver Jameson Williams hampering an offense that was already without John Metchie. The Bulldogs were deeper and made the key plays to put this one away.
It took almost 40 minutes but the Bulldogs offense has woken up. Stetson Bennett hit Brock Bowers in the flat and Bowers sprinted 15 yards for the end zone untouched. That’s three touchdown drives for Georgia on its last four possession. Bulldogs lead 26-18 with 3:33 left.
Ball now in Bryce Young’s court. Alabama needs touchdown and two-point conversion to tie things.
The Bulldogs and Stetson Bennett didn’t hang their heads after a miscue led to Alabama taking the lead in the fourth quarter. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken decided to live and die with his quarterback, calling for five consecutive pass plays.
A catch by Jemaine Burton and pass interference call moved them into Alabama territory before Bennett found Adonai Mitchell for a 40-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone. A two-point conversion attempt failed, making it 19-18 Georgia with 8:09 left.
Your turn, Alabama.
Georgia was trying to protect its 13-12 lead early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Stetson Bennett broke the pocket under pressure. Hit as he was in a throwing motion, the ball went forward and tumbled toward the sideline. Brian Branch recovered for the Crimson Tide, though it was unclear what the call was. Referees ruled after a long replay review that the ball went to Alabama at the Bulldogs 16.
Four plays later, Bryce Young hit Cameron Latu on third down for a touchdown to push the Crimson Tide ahead with 10:14 left. The lone bright spot for the Bulldogs is they stopped the ensuing two-point conversion and kept the score at 18-13. Just one score away from taking the lead. Now can their offense do enough to find the end zone?
Alabama responds with … another field goal
Make that four field goals for the Crimson Tide as yet another drive stalls close to the Georgia end zone. Bryce Young had two throws to put Alabama ahead before Alabama coach Nick Saban decided to kick a field goal and cut his team’s deficit to 13-12 with just under 13 minutes left to play.
Massive possession upcoming for Georgia. Need to take time off the clock and possibly get some points.
Finally, someone has found the end zone!
After a 67-yard run by James Cook put the Bulldogs in scoring position, his senior sidekick Zamir White scored on a 1-yard touchdown run giving the Bulldogs their first lead at 13-9 with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
Pressure is squarely on the Alabama offense that has just three field goals so far.
Without their two top receivers, the Crimson Tide needed to change some things with their offense starting on their 2. Offensive coordinator got running back Brian Robinson established on the ground early on the latest drive before mixing in short passes to Robinson and wide receivers.
It got the Georgia defense off balance and fatigue seemed to set in. But the Bulldogs did eventually stiffen when Alabama reached their 30 to force a field goal. Will Reichard’s attempt was blocked and the score remains 9-6 in favor of Alabama with 3:18 left in the third quarter.
The Crimson Tide ran 17 plays for 68 yards and took 7:45 off clock and ended with no points.
Bryce Young made his first mistake of the game, forcing a deep throw to Jahleel Billingsley as Georgia had two people in position to make the play. Christopher Smith made the interception at the Alabama 43, giving the Bulldogs great field position.
It’s a rare miscue for the Heisman Trophy winner, who entered the game with 46 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. But with his two best receivers sidelined, he seems to be struggling with the connection to the inexperienced reserves on field.
The Crimson Tide’s defense quickly got the ball back for Young, forcing a three-and-out by Georgia. A deep punt pinned Alabama on its 2 to start the next possession.
Nobody reached the end zone in the first 30 minutes but there were five scoring drives as Alabama had three field goals and Georgia had two, making the score unexpectedly 9-6. Not that there was supposed to be a shootout.
The running games for both teams were nonexistent, leaving the quarterbacks to make much of the big plays. Bryce Young threw for 206 yards and appeared more comfortable than counterpart Stetson Bennett. The loss of receiver Jameson Williams makes the Crimson Tide thin with experience at the position. That will be something to watch in the second half. Georgia gets the ball to start the second half. That drive could be critical as field position can be key if the offense continue to bog down.
If you like defense and physical play, this game is over you. It’s a change from shootouts in previous editions of the title matchups. Welcome to SEC football.
The Crimson Tide look poised to extend their lead to 10 after Cameron Latu’s 61-yard catch and run put them inside the Georgia 10. However, Latu dropped a sure touchdown on the second snap after his big play. Alabama was forced to kick its third field goal of the game and increase its lead to 9-3 with 7 minutes left in the second quarter.
It was a big escape for the Bulldogs, who are struggling on offense and couldn’t afford to go down 10 points. Instead, it is still a one-score game even though the Crimson Tide have mostly dominated things.
No touchdowns so far as the game nears the midway point of the second quarter. There have been three field goals, however. Will Reichard converted a 45-yard field goal for the last points as Alabama leads 6-3. The scoring drive was marred by the injury to Crimson Tide leading receiver Jameson Williams on a 40-yard reception that set up the score.
Williams caught 40-yard pass over the middle of the Georgia defense but as he was twisting to avoid the tackle attempts of two defenders he went down holding his knee. Williams was helped off the field and went to the injury tent on the sideline for evaluation.
Besides Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, Williams was easily the biggest offensive weapon for the Crimson Tide this season with 1,507 yards and 15 touchdowns entering tonight’s game. Alabama is also without its other starting receiver John Metchie III, who tore his ACL against Georgia in the SEC title game.
ESPN reporter Holly Rowe reported in the third quarter that Williams would not return.
The first signs of life for the Bulldogs offense as Stetson Bennett hits George PIckens with a deep ball for 52 yards to the Alabama 29. They’d get closer to the end zone before the Crimson Tide stiffened and Jack Podlesny kicked a 24-yard field goal to even things at 3-3 with 12:35 left in the second quarter.
The pass to PIckens is significant as the deep ball could loosen things up for the Georgia running game that has been bogged down. Bulldogs have 11 yards on eight attempts. The ground hasn’t been much better for Alabama, which has 16 yards on six carrie
Three of the last four possessions have ended without first downs as both teams struggle to run the ball effectively and there is little time to throw. It’s not a huge surprise with the talent on both defenses and this is the way things started in the SEC championship game. A feeling-out process for sure.
Georgia has one yard offense after its two drives. Stetson Bennett still has not completed a pass. It’s early and things should loosen up as game wears on.
It was a quick three-and-out for the Bulldogs on their opening possession as quarterbStetson Bennett was sacked on their first play. Bennett scrambled on second down to make for a manageable third down but then threw incomplete under pressure. Forced to punt, Jake Camarda delivered a 55-yard boot that flipped field position after a field catch. Alabama starts on its own 20 with 8:10 left in the first quarter.
It’s 3-0 for the Crimson Tide after taking the opening kickoff and driving 56 yards in 14 plays before the series stalled. Will Reichard delivered a 37-yard field goal with 9:55 left for the first points of the game.
Alabama mixed run and pass for most of the possession, getting off quick passes as Georgia tried to bring pressure on Bryce Young. The Bulldogs had an touchdown overturned, but stiffened within 20 yards of the end zone. Not a bad start for the defense as it tries to reverse its struggles from the earlier meeting.
On the fourth play from scrimmage, it appeared the Bulldogs got on the board first when Jordan Davis hit Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. The ball appeared to be fumbled and was picked up by Nakobe Dean and returned for a touchdown. However, replay review showed Young had his arm coming forward and it was ruled an incomplete pass.
The bright spot for Georgia? Early pressure by the Bulldogs front that was lacking in last month’s game.
It’s almost time to kick things off with the national championship on the line. Natalie Grant delivered a stirring rendition of the national anthem before both teams took the field. Alabama went first before Georgia entered with cameras flashing.
Georgia calls tails and wins the coin toss. Bulldogs elect to defer, which means Alabama and Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young take the field first. A good early look at how the Georgia defense will adjust after allowing 41 points in last month’s game.
Look for an early feeling-out period when the Alabama and Georgia meet on Monday night in the College Football Playoff national championship game. The Crimson Tide will look to see what the Bulldogs learned from last month’s loss. How Georgia tweaks a clearly flawed game plan — and how Alabama responds to a new defensive approach — might be the factor that ultimately decides this matchup of SEC powers. But it’s not the only ingredient needed to win. Boiled down, these are the steps that will pilot the Bulldogs or Crimson Tide to the top of college football.
– Paul Myerberg
These teams played just over a month ago for the SEC championship, and Alabama won in convincing fashion, 41-24. That won’t happen in this edition. Remember what happened the last time these schools squared off in the FCS championship four years ago. That one was nothing short of an instant classic, with Alabama rallying for a 26-23 overtime win on a walk-off TD pass.
We can’t promise a similar finish, but we do know that both teams have a whole lot of talent. Both coaching staffs have had several weeks to pore over the footage from this season’s previous encounter, so there will certainly be some adjustments on each side. In theory, this one should be a lot more competitive.
– Eddie Timanus
Former Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier expects a rematch reversal when No. 1 Alabama faces No. 3 Georgia in the national championship on Monday. The Crimson Tide defeated Georgia 41-24 to win the SEC Championship on Dec. 4, but Spurrier has been bullish on the Bulldogs’ title chances throughout the season, and the first result didn’t dissuade his thinking.
“They’re due for the football gods to maybe smile on them this time,” Spurrier said.
– Blake Topppmeyer, USA TODAY Network