Defense deserves redemption as Georgia ends long title drought

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Georgia won its long-awaited national championship as it dominated in an undefeated regular season – relying on its…

Georgia won its much-anticipated national championship as it dominated during an undefeated regular season — by relying on its defense.

The Bulldogs allowed just 30 yards to defeat Alabama 33-18 on Monday night in Indianapolis. Georgia (14-1) won its first league title since the 1980 season.

“I hope it doesn’t take that long again,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart.

The decisive touchdown came on cornerback Kelee Ringo’s 79-yard interception return with less than a minute left.

Quarterback Stetson Bennett credited the defense for the win.

“First of all, it was the defense that kept us in this game as we tripped over our own feet in the first half,” said Bennett. “They won this game for us.”

It was the redemption for a unit that had not gotten more than 17 points in a game before being humiliated in their 41-24 loss to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game on December 4.

“We talked about putting it on our shoulders and it was on us,” said linebacker Nakobe Dean. “We knew when we took the lead if they don’t score more, they don’t win.”

The defense regained its swagger with a 34-11 semifinal win over Michigan. Winning the Alabama rematch (13-2) was the crowning glory for Smart and his defense.

The Bulldogs entered the championship game with a national best 9.6 points per game.

“I think our defense is definitely in the history books for what we’ve done all year,” said Safety Lewis Cine, the game’s defensive player. “Thanks to the trainers. Credit to the players. We have definitely made it into the history books.”

Cine had seven tackles, including one for a loss.

Kept bagless in the loss to Alabama in Atlanta, Georgia’s defense appeared to break through in the fourth round of the game.

Defensive tackle Jordan Davis reached Alabama quarterback Bryce Young for an apparent looting. Young lost control of the ball and linebacker Nakobe Dean scooped the ball up and ran for what the umpires called a touchdown.

After a review, the game was ruled as an incomplete pass. Officials ruled that Young’s arm went forward when he was thrown to the ground. The Crimson Tide’s ride continued and ended with a field goal.

Linebacker Channing Tindall gave Georgia its much-anticipated first sack of Young, for a 13-yard loss, in the second quarter when the Crimson Tide again settled for a field goal from Will Reichard.

Tindall and Quay Walker had eight tackles each.

Georgia took a 19-18 lead on Bennett’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell. The defense then stopped Alabama without a first down. The Crimson Tide punter set up Bennett’s 15-yard touchdown pass to tighten Brock Bowers to stretch the lead to eight points.

The defense decided the rest of the game.

“We’ve risen to the challenge,” says Dean. “We knew that every time they got to the red area, we would bow our necks and do what we had to do.”

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