Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde discuss Georgia’s victory over Alabama in the National Championship Game, and debate if Kirby Smart could be on track for a Saban-esque run of greatness.
PAT FORDE: Heck of a game. Very good game. Big time, obviously, I mean, tons of talent on the field, tons of intensity, drama, some controversy, some back and forth, you know. For a while, it looked like, "oh my god, Georgia's going to find a new and different way to blow it again against Alabama." And then they come through--
PETE THAMEL: It's hard to overstate the fatalism that, like, came with that moment when Stetson Bennett-- did you think that was a fumble in live?
PAT FORDE: I absolutely thought there was no way it was a fumble live. And then I watched a few replays, and I still thought there was no way.
- Yeah. Like Brian Branch, who came up with the fumble-- but I don't think he even thought that he was getting a fumble.
PETE THAMEL: He had no idea.
PAT FORDE: I mean, he was so nonchalant grabbing the ball. Yeah. It was like an accidental fumble recovery where he just happened to be in bounds. So anyway, Pete, just biggest takeaways from the game, and then we'll start diving into some of the nitty gritty.
PETE THAMEL: Yeah. I think, like, takeaway one from this game, when we think about it ten years from now, it'll be the 41 year drought is over-- the longing, the angst, the heartbreak. Like that-- quelling of that, I think, is the number one storyline to come out of here.
And then, number two, Stetson Bennett wrote the ending to one of the greatest walk-on stories in college football history. Like, he got the ending right. And this is how tenuous-- it could have been wrong. 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter-- we still don't know if it's going to be right or wrong.
He could have been the guy who wasn't good enough, the guy that lost to Alabama three times. And instead, he leads two nails touchdown drives. He throws that 40 yard parabola. That catch was one of the great plays of the game, because it--
PAT FORDE: Phenomenal. AD Mitchell.
PETE THAMEL: Yeah. Mitchell reached back with his right hand and kind of pinned it on the left side of his helmet. I mean, it was really remarkable. You know, in a game with a lot of athleticism, a lot of big time plays, that was a big time play. But, yeah. I really think you go-- Georgia angst, Stetson and then Kirby breakin' the shot against Nick, breaking through at his alma mater.
And maybe-- maybe starting a little run, too. You know, like--
PAT FORDE: Yeah.
PETE THAMEL: It's-- it's easy to look at Georgia and look at the recruiting classes and look at the talent. They still really don't have a quarterback.
PAT FORDE: [LAUGHING] No, I mean, like, I was comparing him-- before the season started, I compared him to Phil Mickelson. It's like, he's going to break through and win a major, you know. And then once he does, does he win five or six, you know? And I'm not saying he's going to win five or six national titles, but hey, he might.
PETE THAMEL: Yeah.
PAT FORDE: Again, only 46 years old. First coach to lead his alma mater to the national title since Phil Fulmer in 1998. So it's been a while-- pride of Bainbridge, Georgia, Kirby Smart. And, you know, yes.
I mean, I think, Pete, you're absolutely right about the big themes of this-- is-- yeah. I mean, 41 years for a program that has almost everything going for it-- it's, like, it's incredible how it could have possibly been that long. And they finally do it. And Vince Dooley is there. He's 89 years old.
Kirby Smart tells a cute little story, that last night, he gets off the elevator on his floor of his hotel room. And there's Vince Dooley sitting on a bench waiting for his hotel key because he had locked himself out of his room. And somebody was bringing one up to him. And he's, like, "God put Vince Dooley there for me to see him."
I don't really know whether God did do that, but, you know, it was just-- it was kind of cool, the full circle nature of this. And, you know, for that, just the way things came together for this to finally happen was phenomenal.
And then, yeah-- I mean, the Bennett thing. Like you said, I mean those two drives-- the second drive, he didn't have to do much-- mostly hand it off. But then very good play call by Todd Monken, who I thought didn't run the ball nearly enough for about 3/4, but then they figured it out and pounded it. Yeah. They pounded it.
And then they had the nice deft-- the flat pass to Brock Bowers. And they got a lead block. And he scores. And that really probably decided the game. But then Kelee Ringo definitely decided the game with the pick.
PETE THAMEL: Well, could have decided the game if they didn't chase points, but that's another story, too.
PAT FORDE: [LAUGHING]
PETE THAMEL: Because they went up eight, and they could have been up nine.
PAT FORDE: Oh right, right.
PETE THAMEL: Because they didn't get the 2-point conversion.
PAT FORDE: Right.
PETE THAMEL: Yeah. Kelee Ringo was cool. Like, it was like you could see him getting chased down from behind. And it was, like, "oh god, don't let him be like a Leon Lett. Don't let it-- don't let it get poked out." And then they blocked very well at the end for him. Like, well, somebody got de-cleated-- yeah.
That was-- my favorite play from this game was the Jalen Carter field goal block. I mean, that was just such-- he didn't even have to jump, Pat. Like, he just-- like, that's some pretty good angles. If you get far enough in the backfield where all you have to do is reach up to block the kick. He had his big left pop.
If that planted, I felt like the seeds of possibility for Georgia, because neither team had done much. But it was the combination of the drop by Alabama-- I mean, the drop might have been the biggest play of the game.
PAT FORDE: Yeah.
PETE THAMEL: Like--
PAT FORDE: Yeah.
PETE THAMEL: Certainly the biggest play of the first three quarters.
PAT FORDE: Yeah.
PETE THAMEL: Because it takes points away, sets up the block. They bust the run fit, and then-- I believe it's 15 yard face mask, that's a first and goal. And then we have our first touchdown.
PAT FORDE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, all those things in succession.
PETE THAMEL: Yes. It's rare to see a Nick Saban team, like, fall on its face four steps in a row.
PAT FORDE: Yeah. Right?
PETE THAMEL: And that's what happened.
PAT FORDE: And they did. Yeah.