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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — A rainy day in Los Angeles seemed like an opportune time to head indoors for an art show, and 72,628 did this Monday — whether they were delighted or dejected. They saw the grueling art of American football calibrated to one of its greatest levels in the 153 years since a bunch of thugs made it work on a seedy New Jersey field.
They saw Georgia, the current American dynasty, take a meritorious group of horned frogs from TCU, knock them down 65-7 at SoFi Stadium and turn them into what looked a lot like prey. They watched Georgia win the first national championship repeat of the college football playoff era (and first overall standings in 10 years), becoming the fourth team ever to win 15-0 and in two seasons between which the NFL was late April , 29: 1 reached their roster for 15 players raided, including five defenders in the first round of the draft.
They saw collaborative greatness even if they didn’t see competitive drama.
“I hope [Georgia fans] get the message I’m about to say,” said Kirby Smart, seventh-year Georgia coach, former Georgia player and tallest Georgia man. “You cannot take it for granted. You cannot take such opportunities for granted. And they showed themselves in full force. And they better never get tired because we need them.”
Two thousand miles from Athens, Georgia, they saw things they might never tire of. They saw a resilient bunch of Bulldogs sprinkle the field with the graceful plays and unglamorous stops necessary to make their college football one of the best forms ever. Nine days after a 42-41 run from Ohio State in a national Peach Bowl semifinal, they saw a beautiful urgency that prompted TCU coach Sonny Dykes to “feel a lot of pride in their performance in the way they played.” “, to recognize.
You saw something – really something – that was reminiscent of others who graced their replay titles with romp, like Nebraska in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl (62-24) or Alabama in the 2013 Bowl Championship Series title game (42-14) and you saw confirmation of the stark reality that the best American football comes from the Southeast, the region with eight consecutive national championships from four different universities.
How It Happened: The Bulldogs lost in quick succession
From the start Monday night, the Georgia players ran in the open prairies they created themselves, which reflected their own set of threats, from 25-year-old quarterback Stetson Bennett IV going through the for a 21-yard touchdown streak Gaping space poured in that opened the scoring, via Ladd McConkey, who caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Bennett that had McConkey running so undisturbed he looked kind of lonely, to tight end Brock Bowers, who was making precise catches with precise Throws made to muster seven catches for 152 yards and a master touchdown in the third quarter.
If you need Georgia to demonstrate they can rush across the field in a hurry, they could, with drives like four plays for 70 yards, five for 57, or four for 55. If you need it to show that it can trot effectively, it could do that with 11 plays for 92 yards or 11 plays for 66 yards. If you wanted plans that left people gaping, they had them, and if you wanted precision passes like Bennett’s 22-yard touchdown pass to a well-guarded Adonai Mitchell who made it 38-7 at halftime, they had this.
“[They] We just executed our misalignments and kept hitting as we went,” said TCU linebacker Dee Winters. “We kept hitting ourselves, just thinking too much, trying to run too fast to the ball and things like that.”
In order to defend this defense, people often develop personality disorders in the presence of size. Georgia rushed for 589 yards with a beautiful balance of 254 (floor) and 335 (air), and Bennett soared in the quarterback rating clouds all game before landing on an insane 226.9 that Smart called “amazing.” and “probably his best game of his career,” and Bennett rushed 18 for 25 for 304 yards and four touchdowns, rushed for 39 and two more points, and earned his second straight offensive MVP in national title games.
“And,” Smart said, “when you have a quarterback who can take protection and check things and know what the defense is doing and still kick you, you have a quality quarterback.”
Stetson Bennett has always had star potential. Just ask the Georgia scout team.
This is a senior-ranked Georgia quarterback who went on to Georgia in 2017, transferred from Georgia to a junior college in Mississippi in 2018, and then returned to Georgia in 2019, though his own coaches had a hand in having him overlooked. Then, all these years later, he’s a two-title quarterback who spent his final college quarters on the sidelines with quiet nerve endings after Smart called time-out to give Bennett a curtain call, of which Bennett said, “That Huddle, I said to all the boys, ‘What do we do? Why don’t we have a play?’” Then he understood why and emotionally felt “in the round, as simple as it is, just one last round with the boys, you know?”
But all the time, something equally artistic was happening elsewhere in the game’s stats, even if it was the kind of art that caused bruises. A TCU team (13-2) that had conceded less than 377 yards in a game just once in its entire dizzying season suddenly gained 188. A favorite of an unlikely finalist who threw 263 yards in a dreamy Fiesta Bowl semifinal win over Michigan rushed far, suddenly rushed to 36. While 32 pretty first downs went to Georgia, nine gnarly ones went to TCU. TCU’s top player, wide receiver Quentin Johnston, caught a pass for three yards. An ominous early sack saw TCU star quarterback Max Duggan with a tough committee of defenders surrounding him: Jalen Carter, Nazir Stackhouse and Smael Mondon.
“I mean, they were good up front,” Duggan said. “They had some good flashes, some good presses that came through. I held the ball a bit too long, didn’t get through, caused problems for the offensive line itself. It was kind of me. But . . .”
But: “They had some good plans.”
Brewer: TCU was a deserved finalist, and college football is better with variety
“You know, as a kid, you always dream of moments like this,” said Georgia defenseman Javon Bullard, who made two pass intercepts.
All of this had former defenseman and defensive coach Smart almost talking to himself about his defensive scout team, and it all looked like TCU had stumbled onto something bigger, faster and more powerful than they had seen. It’s something that’s sweeping football country now — and raining red and black — and is 81-15 in the seven-year tenure of Smart, the former Georgia fullback who once coordinated the defenses of another dynasty, Alabama. His newest Georgia team would “find a consistency of performance [that] it’s hard to find,” Smart said, and he would express his admiration for it. And those who watched Georgia, especially those in Georgia Red and Black, would know they had seen a rare level in all the years of art.
“It seems like the last three months out of four we’ve been trying to see if anyone could beat us and we’ve just run out of games,” Bennett said.
And then he finished: “No one could.”