Explosive Bulldogs Capture SEC Title With 50-30 Win
ATLANTA — The top-ranked Georgia football team produced explosive plays all over the field during the Bulldogs’ 50-30 win over No. 14 LSU in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
On offense, defense and special teams, the Bulldogs (13-0) delivered en route to the program’s first SEC title since 2017. Georgia’s offense produced a gaudy 529 yards and went 5-for-5 in the red zone.
While the defense gave up a lot of yards and big plays, it also forced three turnovers and made multiple timely stops to help Georgia pull away for good. And special teams produced a touchdown early, on safety Christopher Smith’s 96-yard blocked field goal return for a touchdown for the game’s first points.
LSU (9-4) generated 549 yards of offense, 502 through the air, striking for multiple big plays against Georgia’s highly-rated defense. But the Bulldogs hunkered down when they had to. Georgia has now captured 14 SEC championships and improved to 4-6 in the SEC Championship Game.
Georgia’s first touchdown came in the most improbably of ways. On it’s second drive of the game, LSU got down to the Bulldog 5-yard line, but a third-down sack for a loss of 10 yards by linebacker Chaz Chambliss forced the Tigers to try for a short field goal. Damian Ramos’ 32-yard attempt was blocked by big defensive tackle Nazir Stackhouse, and the ball rolled to the 5.
Nobody made a move for the ball for a couple of seconds until the veteran Smith picked it and with a convoy in front of him ran untouched 95 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Georgia lead with 3:33 to play in the quarter. Smith famously had an interception return for a score, the game’s only touchdown, in Georgia’s 10-3 season-opening win over Clemson last season.
The Tigers answered back a little more than a minute later, scoring on a 53-yard touchdown pass from Jayden Daniels to Kayshon Boutte, who covered most of that ground after the catch.
Georgia wasted no time regaining the lead. Bennett hit Ladd McConkey for 11 yards on first down. He then hit Brock Bowers for 5, followed by a Bennett-to-Bowers 32-yard completion. Bennett followed that with a 9-yard pass to Kenny McIntosh, with an LSU personal-foul penalty tacked on, giving the Bulldogs a first down at the Tiger 4. On third down, Bennett rolled right and hit Bowers for a 3-yard score and a 14-7 lead with 3 seconds left in the first quarter.
Georgia’s next touchdown also came about improbably. On the first play of the second quarter, with LSU facing a second-and-12 at its 23, Daniel’s pass was deflected and bounced off the head of an LSU defender on the ground. Georgia linebacker Smael Mondon intercepted the pass and the Bulldogs took over at the Tiger 22.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Bennett his McConkey for a 22-yard score and a 21-7 lead with 14:43 left in the half.
Georgia’s defense, after giving up eight first downs in the opening quarter, then stuffed the Tigers for a 1-yard loss on third-and-1 at the LSU 33, defensive tackle Tramel Walthour with the stop, and forced a punt. The Bulldogs’ offense put together some nice plays on the ensuing drive, but Georgia came away empty after Jack Podlesny’s 43-yard field-goal attempt bounced off the right upright.
The Bulldogs, after facing another punt, drove 81 yards on their next scoring drive, this one ending with a 14-yard pass from Bennett to tight end Darnell Washington in the end zone. That pushed the Georgia lead to 28-7 with 2:48 to play in the half. Twice on the drive, Bennett hit wideout Dominick Blaylock for nice gains, an 11-yarder and on third-and-8 a 12-yard completion.
Georgia continued its surge in the final minutes of the half, After the defense forced another LSU punt, thanks in part to Jaylen Carter’s 5-yard sack, the offense started at its 42 with 1:58 left in the half. Bennett hit Kearis Jackson for 19 yards, Daijun Edwards ran for 15, and then Bennett his McConkey on a screen that turned into a 22-yard gain down to the 2. McConkey was shaken up on the play and did not return.
Two plays later, Bennett connected with Dillon Bell for a 3-yard touchdown and a 35-7 lead with 32 seconds left until halftime.
The Tigers’ hurry-up offense went to work and Daniels was able to put together a few completions. As time expired, Ramos made a 42-yard attempt to cut Georgia’s lead to 35-10 at the half.
LSU took advantage of a Georgia turnover to start the second half, recovering a fumble after a botched handoff. A couple of plays later, LSU backup quarterback Garrett Nussmeier, in for the injured Daniels, hit Malik Nabers for a 34-yard touchdown to make it a 34-17 game with 10:33 left in the third.
Georgia’s defense bent but didn’t break on LSU’s next drive, giving up a couple of long passes, but when the Tigers had a first down at the UGA 14, they came away empty. On fourth-and-1 at the 5, LSU tried to run it up the middle and got nothing — Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Carter were credited with the stop for no gain.
The Bulldog offense made the most of the defensive stop, producing a 95-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 2-yard McIntosh run that pushed Georgia’s lead to 42-17 with 3:32 left in the third. Earlier in the drive, on third-and-6 at the UGA 9, Bennett hit Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint on a screen left and the wideout took advantage of a couple of great blocks to get free for 16 yards. Later, Kendall Milton ran up the left side for a 51-yard gain to the LSU 15, setting up Georgia for its sixth TD of the game.
LSU kept attacking, and having success. A 47-yard run by Josh Williams gave the Tigers a first down at the Georgia 11. A penally moved the ball to the 2. Two plays later, Noah Cain ran the ball in for a 1-yard score with 1:46 remaining in the third, cutting the Georgia advantage to 42-23. LSU went for the 2-point conversion and came away empty.
Georgia kept rolling offensively and extended its lead yet again, this time scoring on McIntosh’s 8-yard run to the right. The Bulldogs then opted to go for 2, and went with a trick play. Wideout Adonai Mitchell, out for most of the season due to injury, got the ball on a reverse and hit Washington in the end zone, giving the Bulldogs a 50-23 lead with 13:13 remaining.
Saturday’s game was just the second time this season that the Bulldogs have hit the 50-part mark. The first came in their 55-0 rout of Vanderbilt on Oct. 15.
LSU’s next drive moved into Georgia territory, which is where it ended. A deep pass on the right side was intercepted by Smith at the goal line. It was Smith’s third interception of the season and Georgia’s second of the game and 12th of the season.
The Tigers, facing a fourth-and-10 at the Georgia 33, managed to score on a touchdown pass into the end zone, cutting the UGA lead to 50-30 with 7:12 remaining. It’s the first time this season than an opponent has reached 30 points against the Bulldogs.
Up next for the Bulldogs is a spot in the College Football Playoff. The four semifinalists and the two matchups will be announced on Sunday.