The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Georgia Bulldogs, 26-23, in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The fireworks started before the game started, when President Donald Trump made an appearance on the field with Reserve Officers’ Training Corps members from the Universities of Alabama and Georgia. His entrance stirred fans into an uproar because his team had to block off multiple entrances. This delayed fans entering the stadium in the cold temperatures. Trump was greeted with a mixture of jeers and predominantly cheers from the crowd, more in favor of Georgia.
Georgia began the game with the football with freshman quarterback Jake Fromm throwing an interception that was fought away by Alabama cornerback Tony Brown. Alabama drove down to attempt a 40-yard field goal, which was missed by kicker Andy Pappanastos after an initial make, then a false start penalty forced Pappanastos to retry the kick.
The first points of the game went in the favor of the Bulldogs with a 41-yard field goal by kicker Rodrigo Blankenship with 14:14 remaining in the second quarter.
Alabama and Georgia both traded short bursts of brilliance with big plays which amounted to those drives stalling in a battle of defense. The defensive lock was broken when Blankenship tacked on another field goal with 7:33 to play in the first half, making the score 6-0.
Both teams traded punts until the end of the first half when Georgia drove down the field and scored on a one-yard run on a read option keeper from sophomore running back Mecole Hardman. The run, along with a Blankenship extra point, put the score to 13-0 when the teams went to the locker rooms.
Alabama received the ball and started the second half with the football, and Head Coach Nick Saban made the call that would define the National Championship – he switched quarterbacks. Sophomore quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who had a 25-2 record as a starter, was not effective in the first half outside of a couple of runs in excess of 20 yards. Saban elected to put Tua Tagovailoa into the offense and see if he could bring the Tide offense to life.
Each team punted in their first drives of the second half. Then they traded touchdowns, which included a six-yard touchdown from Tagovailoa to Henry Ruggs III to bring the score to 13-7. Georgia then scored quickly on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Fromm to Hardman. The play was reviewed because it appeared as though Hardman stepped out of bounds around the 25-yard line. The play stood and that brought the score to 20-7 in favor of the Bulldogs.
The story of the third quarter was the calls that were missed by the officiating crew out of the Big Ten Conference. On Georgia’s first drive of the third quarter, there was a facemask penalty that would have given the Bulldogs a first down and allowed them to continue their drive, it was an obvious foul, but was missed by the officials.
Tagovailoa then threw an interception on the ensuing drive, and Georgia had the ball in Alabama territory. Which would not last long as Alabama intercepted a pass from Fromm on the very next play, and returned the ball in to Georgia territory. The drive stalled after six plays, which many of the yards were gained from a Tagovailoa scramble on third down when he was hit and bounced off three Georgia players, and ran for a first down. Pappanastos later avenged his earlier miss with a 43-yard made field goal to put the Tide within ten points with 1:06 to play in the third quarter.
Late in the third quarter, Alabama freshman defensive back, Kyriq McDonald, collapsed on the sideline. It was deemed a “serious medical emergency” by ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi. McDonald was conscious, loaded onto a stretcher and taken to a nearby medical center. USA Today reported after the game that McDonald was “OK.”
Alabama scored the game’s final 10 points on a 30-yard field goal from Pappanastos and a seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who at that point, had been a non-factor in the game.
The play that Crimson Tide and Bulldog fans alike will remember, was the last play of regulation. Alabama drove down inside the Georgia 30-yard line and had the ball spotted in the middle of the field, which set up Pappanastos perfectly to kick the field goal and win the fifth national championship in nine years for Alabama.
Long story short – he missed.
The National Championship went into overtime for just the third time in the history of the former system, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and the College Football Playoff.
Alabama won the toss and elected to play defense first (college overtime rules are set so teams typically want to play defense first. This is so they know what the opposing offense does, and what their offense has to do). Georgia was stifled by the Tide defense on first and second down, then Fromm was sacked on third down which forced Blankenship to kick a 51-yard field goal to put Georgia in front, 23-20.
Alabama took the field on offense, knowing they needed at least a field goal to continue into a second overtime, or a touchdown to win the game. Tagovailoa was sacked to almost the same spot Fromm was sacked on Georgia’s possession.
Then, it happened.
Tagovailoa took the snap on second down in what was an obvious passing situation. He looked down the right side of the field which caused the Georgia safety to move that way, thinking Tagovailoa was going to throw the ball to that side of the field. What the safety did not know is DeVonta Smith was streaking down the left side of the field and had beaten the Georgia cornerback, which left him wide open for Tagovailoa. The pass was thrown on a 41-yard frozen rope and caught by Smith who casually walked into the endzone and gave the Crimson Tide the 26-23 victory and another championship to add to their dynasty.