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Bulldogs win Rose Bowl thriller in 2OT, 54-48

UGA Football: OU
Photo: John Kelley/UGA

PASADENA, Calif. – A blocked field goal opened the door for a game-winning score in the Georgia Bulldogs’ 54-48 double overtime Rose Bowl victory against the No. 2-seeded Oklahoma Sooners Monday evening at the Rose Bowl Stadium.

Oklahoma offense went first in the second overtime and got to the 10-yard line for a 27-yard field goal attempt. The outstretched hand of senior linebacker Lorenzo Carter blocked the field goal to set the stage for a game-winning score. The second play of Georgia’s series was the game-winner as senior running back Sony Michel got the corner and sprinted 27 yards into the end zone.

Georgia, seeded No. 3, advances to face the winner of the other CFP semifinal matchup in the CFP National Championship game on Monday, Jan.8, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

“What a game,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “What an atmosphere. My heart goes out to the Oklahoma team, because they played their tail off. And so did ours. Nobody ever quit and everybody fought hard. I’m so proud of these kids. The seniors never quit. This is a great university and these kids fought their tail off.”

The Bulldogs amassed 527 total yards with 317 on the ground and 210 through the air. Michel, the offensive player of the game, finished with 181 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while also adding 41 yards on four receptions and a score. Senior back mate Nick Chubb collected 145 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Jake Fromm went 20-of-29 for 210 yards and two touchdowns, while becoming just the second true freshman to start the Rose Bowl game. Fromm’s most frequent target was senior Javon Wims who finished with 73 yards on six catches and a touchdown

Defensively, junior linebacker Roquan Smith collected a team-leading 11 tackles including a key 3rd-down tackle in the first period of overtime and was awarded defensive player of the game. Georgia tallied five sacks with single sacks coming from Jonathan Ledbetter, David Marshall, Tyler Clark and D’Andre Walker. Senior safety Dominick Sanders had a third-quarter interception that led to the Bulldogs’ third touchdown in the second half.

Georgia trailed 31-17 at halftime as the game featured both teams with over 250 total yards of offense and six total touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship drilled a Rose Bowl record 55-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

Storming out of the break, the Bulldogs defense forced a Sooner 3-and-out and then scored on their first play. Nick Chubb fought off multiple would-be tacklers for a 50-yard touchdown run which put him over the 100-yard rushing mark. Sophomore return specialist Mecole Hardman helped set up the favorable field position with a 21-yard punt return.

The equalizer at 31-all came in the last minute of the third quarter when Michel took a 3rd-and-7 handoff 38 yards for his third touchdown of the game. On Oklahoma’s next possession, Sanders intercepted an overthrow by Baker Mayfield and returned it 39 yards to the four-yard line. Two plays later, Georgia obtained its first lead of the game with a 4-yard pass and catch from Fromm to Wims.

Next it was Oklahoma’s turn to tie it as Mayfield found Dimitri Flowers in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass. The score notched it a 38-all with 8:47 left in regulation. The Sooners then recaptured the lead shortly after on a 46-yard scoop-and-score off a Michel fumble.

Trailing by 45-38 with 3:22 left in regulation, Fromm methodically marched the Bulldogs for the game-tying touchdown drive that spanned seven plays and 59 yards. On the drive, Fromm was 3-for-4 passing for 48 yards. A defensive pass interference in the end zone put Georgia at the goal line and Chubb ran it in on a direct snap.

Georgia forced two Oklahoma punts in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter to send the game into extra time and eventually outlasting the Sooners.

POST-GAME NOTES

*Overtime: With tonight’s 54-48 victory, Georgia (13-1) ties a school record with its 13th win of the season (2002 team went 13-1). The Bulldogs are now 8-5 overall in overtime including 3-1 in bowl games. Before tonight, the last OT game for the Bulldogs came in 2015 as Georgia beat Ga. Southern 23-17. The last Bulldog bowl game in OT was 2012 Outback when #12 Michigan State edged #18 Georgia 33-30 in triple-OT. Tonight, senior Lorenzo Carter blocked a field goal in the second overtime as Georgia took over with a chance for the win and ultimately Sony Michel scampered in 27 yards for the game-winning TD, his fourth of the night, a Georgia bowl record for Points (24) and TDs (4). Roquan Smith (LB) and Sony Michel (RB) were the Players of the Game for the offense and defense.

*Bowl History: This was Georgia’s second-ever appearance in the Rose Bowl after posting a 9-0 win over UCLA in the 1943 Rose Bowl to win a national title. Georgia made its 22nd consecutive appearance in a bowl game and owns an overall record of 31-19-3 in bowl games.

*Defense Faced Stiff Test and then OT: The Bulldogs came in ranked 3rd nationally in Scoring Defense, allowing only 13.2 points a game while the Oklahoma Sooners led the nation in Total Offense (583.3 yards a game) and 4th nationally in Scoring at 44.9 ppg. At the half, OU had built a 31-17 advantage, outgaining Georgia 360 to 291. It was the most first half points allowed by the Bulldogs since Ole Miss carried a 31-0 lead to halftime in Oxford last season. This year, Missouri was the only other team to put at least 21 points on the Bulldogs in the first half this year as Georgia led 34-21. OU was forced to punt for the first time on its fifth possession. OU finished regulation with 45 points and 512 yards of offense on 73 plays and ended up with 531 yards on 81 plays and 48 points.

In the second half, Georgia forced OU to punt on its first three possessions and forced an interception on its fourth (snagged by Dominick Sanders, his school record-tying 16th of his career) and bolstered by a 50-yard TD run by Chubb and a 34-yard TD scamper by Michel, the Bulldogs had tied the contest at 31 with 41 seconds left in the third quarter. It was Michel’s third TD of the game (2 rushing, 1 receiving) to tie a Bulldog bowl record for Points Scored and TDs held by tailbacks Rodney Hampton (1989 Gator vs. Michigan State and Robert Edwards, 1998 Outback vs. Wisconsin). Sanders returned it to the OU four and Georgia eventually scored (4-yard TD pass Fromm-Wims) to take its first lead at 38-31 with 13:57 left in the contest. Sanders already owns the school record for interception return yards and today’s 39-yarder gives him 381 for his career, which is 2nd in SEC history.

OU tied it at 38 with 8:47 left in the game on a six-play, 88-yard drive and took the lead on a fumble return TD in the 4th quarter. Bulldog junior WLB Roquan Smith, who came in with a team-best 113 tackles on the year, had a team-high 10 tackles while senior Lorenzo Carter had nine. Also, the Bulldogs registered five sacks.

*Rushing Into History: Senior Nick Chubb tallied 145 rushing yards on only 14 carries while senior Sony Michel had a career high 181 yards on just 11 carries with a Georgia bowl record four total TDs. Chubb came in already second in SEC history in rushing yards, trailing only Bulldog legend Herschel Walker (5,259). Also, Chubb and Michel already rank No. 2 and 3 in school history for rushing yards. Chubb now has 4,744 career yards while Michel now has 3,540 yards.

Michel’s 75-yard rushing TD was the longest in Georgia bowl history, eclipsing Kent Lawrence’s 74-yarder in the 1966 Cotton Bowl and Robert Edwards 74-yarder in the 2000 Outback Bowl. It cut the deficit to 21-14. Also on that TD run, Michel went over 1,000 yards for the season and marked the second time in his career he has done that. Michel and Chubb became the first Bulldog duo to register 1,000-rushing yards in the same season. Michel’s 75-yarder today was the longest TD run of the year and longest by a Bulldog for a score since Nick Chubb went 83 yards against Alabama in 2015.

In the second half, Chubb’s first carry resulted in a 50-yard TD scamper to trim the deficit to 31-24.

It was the second time this year that Chubb and Michel had 100 yards each in a game, also doing it at Vanderbilt. Chubb added a two-yard TD to tie the game at 45 with 55 seconds left. Georgia’s five rushing TDs gave it a school record 41 on the ground for the season. 

*Final Numbers For Fromm: True freshman Jake Fromm completed 12-of-17 passes for 109 yards and 1 TDs, directing the offense that finished the first half with 291 yards on 28 plays but trailed 31-17. Georgia tallied 182 rushing yards. OU won the toss and elected to defer the ball until the second half. They forced Georgia to punt after gaining 24 yards and one first down. Senior Javon Wims was the leading receiver with six for 73 yards. Fromm finished 20-of-29 for 210 yards and 2 TDs with no INTs.

Fromm is now 2-1 when the Bulldogs face a halftime deficit, winning at #24 Notre Dame 20-19 (trailed 13-10) and lost at #10 Auburn 40-17 (trailed 16-7) and tonight, Georgia was down 31-17 and went to overtime where it won 54-48.

*Blankenship Booms 55-Yarder: Redshirt sophomore Rodrigo Blankenship set a Georgia bowl record with a career-best 55-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to cut the deficit to 31-17. He was 1-for-2 in the first half on field goals and had 2 PATs. His previous long was a 49-yarder at Kentucky in 2016 and versus Miss. State in 2017. The previous long field goal by a Bulldog in a bowl game was 52 yards in the 2008 Sugar Bowl by Brandon Coutu. Blankenship added a 38-yard field goal in overtime for a 48-45 lead. 

*Points to Ponder: The Bulldogs came in today averaging 34.9 points a game including ranking 4th in the nation in Red Zone Offense, going 48-for-50 with 35 touchdowns. In regulation, Georgia finished 3-for-3 in the Red Zone with three TDs Meanwhile OU was 6-for-6 in the Red Zone, scoring 34 points. 

*Points Off Turnovers: Georgia is now +5 in Turnover Margin, scoring 84 points off 19 turnovers.  The Bulldogs got seven points off one Sooner miscue. Opponents have forced 14 turnovers and turned them into 48 points. OU forced a Sony Michel fumble and it was returned for a TD to give OU a 45-38 edge with 6:52 left. It was Georgia’s first turnover since the Kentucky game on Nov. 18. 

*For Starters: Senior strong safety Dominick Sanders made his 52nd career start which ties the record for most in school history for non-kickers, joining QBs David Greene (52 from 2001-04) and Aaron Murray (52 from 2010-13). PK Blair Walsh started a record 53 games from 2008-11. On offense, a trio of seniors made their 39th career start today in Jeb Blazevich (TE), Nick Chubb (TB) and Isaiah Wynn (LT).

*Captains: Today’s captains were seniors Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Isaiah Wynn and junior Roquan Smith.

*Up Next:  Georgia (13-1) advances to the CFP National Championship game against either No. 1 Clemson or No. 4 Alabama. The CFP title game will be Monday, Jan. 8 in Atlanta in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

POST-GAME QUOTES

THE MODERATOR: I’m joined with Coach Kirby Smart, Roquan Smith and Sony Michel. I’d like Coach Smart to
just give an opening remark and we’ll open the floor for questions.

KIRBY SMART: First off I’d like to thank the Tournament of Roses College Football Playoff Committee. They’ve
done a tremendous job hosting both teams. This is a really unbelievable atmosphere. To think about both
sides, both fan bases did a tremendous job. I want to give a lot of compliments to Oklahoma. You know, Coach
Riley does a great job. Lincoln has been a problem for a lot of defenses, and he created a lot for us tonight. He
does a really good job.

But our kids are so resilient. They never stopped chopping wood. They kept fighting. They believed. There were
offensive players affecting defensive players in the locker room at halftime and they kept fighting. We didn’t
play the way we were capable of, but the best news is we get a chance to play again. So I’m really proud of the
fight, the resiliency of our seniors and our fan base.

Q. Congratulations to all three of you. Sony, could I ask you what it was like on that last run? Did it seem like
a fast run, a slow run? Could you get to the goal? Was it any faster than that? What was going through your
heart and mind when you realized you had won the game?

SONY MICHEL: I mean, when the play was called, everybody just looked each other in the eyes. There were 11
guys just executing the play, and everybody did their job. It was successful for us.

Q. What was going through your mind?

SONY MICHEL: I mean, when I scored a touchdown, I knew it was over. We finally get a chance to play for
something big.

Q. Kirby, the other day we asked Roquan could you guys imagine winning a game like 48 to 45, and he
laughed and said it would probably give you a heart attack. So you’re obviously thrilled that you guys won,
but is a part of you like dead on the inside as a defensive guy that you gave up 48 points?

KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I’m really disappointed and upset. I didn’t think we played to the level that we’re capable
of. I do think that the players fought, and they are a good offensive football team, but, man, we stunk it up and
played really bad. I want to give a lot of kudos to the offense for staying behind us and fighting, and the
defensive players for doing that.

But if it was a measure of heart attack, I’d be on the Rector scale pretty high.

Q. Kirby and Roquan, you guys were lit up pretty good in the first half but not in the second half, where you
had ten possessions in the second half and scored ten points. What did you do differently? You really got
after Baker. He didn’t have time to throw much in the second half. What was different after halftime?

KIRBY SMART: We played with passion, we played with energy, we played with enthusiasm. We ran to the ball
better. We tackled a little better, and we played a little more aggressive.

ROQUAN SMITH: It was just the halftime adjustments, we had to come in, we knew we were going to face
adversity throughout the game, and we had to make those adjustments and just come out and play with a
little more passion.

Q. Sony, was there anything particular that you or Nick saw in the Oklahoma defense that you took
advantage of? You guys had a really big game running.

SONY MICHEL: We just wanted to play our style of football. Oklahoma has a great defense. They created a lot
of three-and-outs for us. We just had to keep pounding. We had faith in each other, and all 11 guys on offense
just kept grinding.

Q. It looked like things changed in the third quarter when you kind of went to a four-three instead of a
three-four?

KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I wouldn’t say it was that simple. I can’t sit here and say we did that exclusively. We did
play a little more four down in the second half. But I don’t know that was it. I really just think the emotion in
the players settled down and played with a little more discipline and a little more passion and energy. It wasn’t
like there was a magic sprinkle dust. We called the same defenses we called in the first half. We just played
them better. We didn’t even get them to third down in the first half, I don’t think, once. It’s not indicative of
who we are, and we’ve got to do a better job as coaches to put our players in a successful situation, and that’s
my most disappointing thing that I didn’t do a good job.

Q. Kirby, it seemed like the game either changed or momentum swung your way significantly with the run
for the roses that Nick had, that 50-yard run. Your emotions during that time?

KIRBY SMART: Just proud. I mean, look, 27-1, that put this team on their shoulders, and all they do is do it
right. They come to all the meetings. They’re in special teams meetings, they compete. To see them racing
down the field, I mean, it really embodies what this team is about. They say adversity kind of reveals character.
I think it exposes character, for sure. We found out we’ve got a pretty good character team.

Q. Jake Fromm has played well for you all season long, but how impressed were you with the way he
performed today, especially with all the pressure on, down a couple scores, never seemed to be rattled.
Made some huge plays, scrambling around making touchdown throws, how impressed were you that a true
freshman can play that well on a stage this big?

KIRBY SMART: I think when you’ve got 1 and 27 it makes it a little more doable. You’ve got 6 and fives outside
and some good people around him. But Jake continues to grow as a player. He puts us in the right play. He
makes good decisions with the ball, he protects the ball. He does a lot of good things, and I’m really proud of
his growth. I think the kid has a bright future. As long as you have a good run game and the offensive line
creates running lanes for 1 and 27, it’s hard to play defense against these two guys. I mean, it’s tough.

Q. Sony, you had a 38-yard touchdown run. It looked like before the run you said something to Jake like
changing the play. What was it you said to him and what did you see?

SONY MICHEL: Just clarification of what the play was. He called the play. I was just making sure that was the
right play.

KIRBY SMART: One of them was on the shot clock. He told him to hurry up.

Q. Roquan, at halftime Kirby said he thought you guys just needed to settle down. That you were playing a
little nervous. Did you feel that? Did you feel you were maybe just overly hyped?

ROQUAN SMITH: I don’t exactly know what the feeling was. I just knew it wasn’t playing to our style and
whatever that was. So we had to make those adjustments, and we did. We played a little better in the second
half. But not to our standard. We expected that from a great Oklahoma team.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach, and thank you guys.

KIRBY SMART: I also want to say this, guys. The Tournament of Roses people have been tremendous here. They
do a great job with this. We got treated with the utmost respect all week, and they really catered to our
players and they absolutely enjoyed this event. And that was win or lose, they got a class act and they do it the
right way. Thank you, guys.

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