Bulldogs Storm Past Michigan In Orange Bowl
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The offense scored on its first five possessions, the defense forced three turnovers, and the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs stormed past No. 2 Michigan 34-11 in the Capital One Orange Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal game Friday night at Hard Rock Stadium.
With the win, the Bulldogs (13-1) will take on No. 1 Alabama in the National Championship Game on Jan. 10, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It will be a rematch of both this season’s SEC Championship Game and the 2017 season’s CFP title game.
Georgia got off to a strong start on offense and defense, and the Bulldogs never let the Wolverines (12-2) gain any momentum. Georgia outgained Michigan 515-325, quarterback Stetson Bennett IV was sharp from the outset, finishing 21 of 31 for 307 yards and three touchdowns, and the defense was dominant throughout.
Freshman tight end Brock Bowers picked up where he left off in the SEC Championship game when he had 10 catches for 139 yards. Against the Wolverines, he caught six passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. On Georgia’s opening drive, he connected with Bennett three times for 51 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead. The TD catch was Bowers’ 12th of the season, setting a new school single-season record.
After Georgia’s defense stopped the Wolverines on fourth-and-4 at the UGA 41, the Bulldog offense quickly moved the ball down the field. On first down at the 18-yard line, Georgia got tricky: running back Kenny McIntosh took a handoff going to the right side and lofted a perfect pass into the arms of a wide-open Adonai Mitchell in the end zone for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 4:41 to play in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs increased their lead to 17-0 early in the second quarter on a 43-yard field goal by Jack Podlesny. Bennett had a 20-yard run on the drive but the possession stalled inside the Wolverine 30.
Michigan got on the scoreboard on its next drive, hitting a 36-yard field goal to make it 17-3 with 7:16 to play in the half. A 42-yard completion moved the ball to the Georgia 19, but then Butkus Award-winning linebacker Nakobe Dean got on an 8-yard sack on the next play and the Wolverines eventually had to settle for the field goal.
Georgia running back James Cook caught a 53-yard pass on the Bulldogs’ next drive, down to the 15, but the Bulldogs only managed to get a 28-yard Podlesny field goal out of the drive. Podlesny’s 20th field goal of the season gave Georgia a 20-3 lead with 3:50 to play in the half.
The Bulldog defense forced a quick three-and-out on Michigan’s next possession and the offense got the ball back with 2:15 on the clock. The Bulldogs didn’t need all of that time to find the end zone again.
After a 12-yard completion to McIntosh on first down, Bennett dropped back and lofted a pass deep up the right side to wideout Jermaine Burton who had gotten behind his defender. Burton sprinted into the end zone and put Georgia up 27-3 with 1:38 left in the half.
And the Bulldogs weren’t done making plays. On the next play, cornerback Derion Kendrick intercepted a Cade McNamara pass to give the offense the ball back with 1:28 remaining. Soon after, Georgia ran into the locker room with a 27-3 halftime lead and a 330-101 advantage in total offense.
Michigan got the ball to open the second half and drove down inside the Bulldog 20, but on second-and-11 at the 19, McNamara tried to throw into the left corner of the end zone for a score. Instead, Kendrick came up with his second interception in as many possessions to give the Bulldogs the ball back.
Georgia’s offense couldn’t get anything going on the ensuing drive and Jake Camarda came on for his first punt of the evening. The Bulldog defense produced another turnover on the next Michigan drive, with Dean stripping Blake Corum and defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt recovering the loose ball at the Georgia 47.
After a scoreless third quarter, Georgia’s defense got another fourth-down stop at the Bulldog 41 early n the fourth. Soon after, Bennett connected with Cook for a 37-yard touchdown that made it 34-3 and put the game away with 11:11 remaining. A Miami native, Cook had a big game with three catches for 99 yards and six carries for 32.
Michigan’s lone touchdown came with 4:25 remaining in the game, on a 35-yard completion. The Wolverines then converted a 2-point attempt to cut Georgia’s lead to 34-11.
Linebacker Nolan Smith led the Bulldog defense with eight tackles, including a sack, Dean added seven stops and a sack, and linebacker Quay Walker had six stops. The Bulldogs finished with seven tackles for loss and four sacks.
Georgia was making its fourth appearance in the Orange Bowl and its first since 1960. The Bulldogs’ first-ever bowl game was the 1942 Orange Bowl, when Georgia beat TCU, 40-26, behind 355 yards of total offense from Frank Sinkwich. Friday’s New Year’s Eve win lifted the Bulldogs’ record in the Orange Bowl to 3-1 and the program’s overall record in bowl games to 34-21-3.