Kirby Smart took over the Georgia Bulldogs in 2016 and in 2021 helped guide the school to the national title game. The only issue there was that it meant facing a conference rival, the Nick Saban led Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Bulldogs have struggled against the Crimson Tide since Smart took over. It equalled Jim Harbaugh at the University of Michigan not being able to win against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Yet, Harbaugh finally got his win in 2021 over the Buckeyes. Smart did not as the Crimson Tide dominated the Bulldogs in their first meeting.
Overall Smart was 0-4 against Saban and Alabama. Their first two match-ups were one score games which includes the national title game in 2017. The last two meetings were blowouts with the final score both times being 41-24.
It also started a narrative about Smart not being able to win big games. Last night he proved his doubters wrong. Though in the first half it seemed more of the same. Robert Griffin III even tweeted about the game at half time, saying that it was “one boring half of football.”
At the time of that tweet the Crimson Tide were leading 9-6.
In the second half it took a bit of time before the action picked up. After Alabama missed a field goal it took Georgia only four plays to score the first touchdown of the game. James Cook arguably came up with the biggest play of the game with a 67 yard run. Three plays later Zamir White found the end zone on a one yard run.
Bryce Young didn’t seem deterred though. Alabama drove down the field and seemingly were going to retake the lead. The defense of Georgia remained strong and forced a field goal instead.
It got worse for Georgia as quarterback Stetson Bennett fumbled giving Alabama great field position.Young wasted no time in finding Cameron Latu for the Crimson Tide’s first and only touchdown of the game.
The two point conversion was not successful though, so Alabama at this point in the fourth quarter led 18-13. Those demons of Smart seemingly were reappearing.
Bennett did not let the turnover deter him. He found Jermaine Burton for 18 yards, a pass interference penalty resulted in an additional 15 yards, a 10 yard completion to Kenny McIntosh, a sack seemingly took any moment away, still that was not the case as Bennett found Adonai Mitchell for a 40 yard touchdown. The two point conversion was not successful. The score now 19-18 with the Bulldogs on top.
Alabama did not get anything going offensively on their next possession which resulted in a punt. Smart went with running the football and taking time off the clock. Cook and White combined for 32 yards on the drive, a pass interference penalty gave an additional 15 yards, and Bennett capped the drive off with a 15 yard touchdown pass to Brock Bowers.
Interestingly enough many started questioning Smart’s decision not to go for two. The seven point only meant that it was still a one possession game. Any doubts about it were quickly silenced as Young threw a pick-six, which sealed the national championship for Georgia.