It took 54 points, 527 yards of offense and two overtimes in a Rose Bowl for the ages, but No. 3 Georgia is headed to the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Lorenzo Carter blocked a 27-yard field goal try from Oklahoma’s Austin Seibert to open double-overtime and Sony Michel, one part of Georgia’s dynamic senior running back duo, scored from 27 yards out to beat the No. 2 Sooners 54-48 and send the Bulldogs to the title game in Atlanta against the winner of Monday night’s Alabama-Clemson game.
It was Michel’s fourth touchdown of the night and a good bit of redemption for the senior, who fumbled in the fourth quarter to allow Oklahoma to take a 45-38 lead with 6:52 to play.
But Jake Fromm, Georgia’s true freshman quarterback, would not let his team lose. He led the Bulldogs, who trailed 31-14 just before halftime, down the field in 2:27, setting up a Nick Chubb two-yard score with 55 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
The teams traded field goals in the first overtime. Compared to the touch he showed throughout the ball game, the overtime play-calling of Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley was uncharacteristically conservative and often took the ball out of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield’s hands. Three straight runs set up the first overtime’s field goal, and a few more runs, including a curious option pitch to backup QB Kyler Murray, were dialed up in the second overtime.
After one OU first down, Roquan Smith and the ferocious Georgia defense forced yet another field goal try. This time, Seibert, who had already connected from 38 and 33 yards on the evening, could not get the ball over the outstretched arm of Carter, who leapt high above the line to get a hand on it.
That set the stage for Michel to send the Bulldogs to the title game.
It was a remarkable comeback sparked by, of all things, a squib kick.
Everything was going Oklahoma’s way in the first half. The Sooners took a 31-14 lead with six seconds left before halftime on a gorgeous trick play that ended with Mayfield catching a touchdown pass.
Six seconds surely couldn’t be enough time for Georgia to add points before halftime, right?
Seibert’s short kickoff was fielded near midfield with barely any time coming off the clock. On the next play, Fromm calmly delivered a nine-yard pass to Terry Godwin. With one second left in the half, UGA coach Kirby Smart called his last timeout and, instead of trying for a Hail Mary, sent Rodrigo Blankenship out for a career-long field goal try.
The redshirt sophomore missed a 48-yarder earlier in the half, but this time he drilled a 55-yard try to cut the OU lead to 31-17 and give the Bulldogs some positive momentum entering the third quarter.
It carried over in a big way.
The acclaimed Georgia defense, after allowing Oklahoma to gain 360 yards in the first half, quickly forced a three-and-out. And on Georgia’s first offensive play of the second half, Chubb took off for a 50-yard touchdown, breaking through a bevy of Oklahoma attempted arm-tackles in the process.
The teams traded punts on the next three drives before Michel reeled off another big one. Michel had already scored on a burst of 75 yards and a 13-yard catch in the first half. This time, he tied the score at 31-31 when he accelerated through the left side from 38 yards out.
With the Georgia faithful ignited, Oklahoma’s miserable third quarter (the offense gained just 29 yards) carried over into the fourth. Mayfield had constant pressure in his face throughout the third and was sacked three times. His first throw of the fourth quarter was his worst of the game. He airmailed a ball intended for tight end Mark Andrews up the seam. Instead of finding Andrews, the ball sailed right to UGA’s Dominick Sanders, who intercepted the pass and returned it to the OU four-yard line.
Two plays later, Georgia had its first lead when Fromm, who completed 20-of-29 passes for 210 yards, threw a pass only Javon Wims could get his hands on. Wims corralled the pass for a four-yard score, giving the Bulldogs a 38-31 lead with 13:57 to play.
But Mayfield would not let his team go down quietly.
Mayfield, who finished 23-of-35 for 287 yards, led his team on a game-tying 88-yard touchdown drive that culminated in an 11-yard touchdown pass to fullback Dmitri Flowers. And when it was time to get the ball back to its star quarterback, the much-maligned OU defense did him one better. It scored.
Michel took the ball to the left side and was stripped. Oklahoma’s Steven Parker scooped up the loose ball and took it 46 yards to the house, giving OU a 45-38 lead with 6:52 to play.
From there, it was time for Fromm and the Bulldogs to respond. After a pair of punts, UGA took over with 3:15 to go and Fromm calmly led his team into OU territory. The true freshman completed passes of 15, 17 and 16 yards, the last of which went to Godwin on third-and-10. That conversion set up first and goal and Chubb finished the drive off with his second touchdown of the game — a touchdown that ultimately forced overtime and sent the Bulldogs to the CFP title game.
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