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12/31/21 - Miami Gardens - Georgia running back James Cook scores a touchdown against Michigan during the second half at the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Friday, Dec. 3`, 2021, in Miami Gardens. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Georgia football players ready to end 1980, Alabama jokes in national championship game

The Georgia fotoball players are aware of it. They’ve heard the jokes. The snipes from rival fan bases. That the Bulldogs haven’t won a national championship since 1980. And that they can’t get past Alabama under Nick Saban, as the Bulldogs have lost seven-straight games against the Crimson Tide.

They also know that all that goes away with a win on Monday in the national championship game.

“We just wanted to do something and be special that nobody can take away from us and to be here for like we come back they can bring us up and not the 1980 team,” running back James Cook said. That is just special just winning the national championship here at Georgia.”

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The Bulldogs have been close a number of times, often against Alabama. There’s the 2012 SEC Championship game where the Bulldogs saw the game end with themselves four-yard short of the go-ahead score. The 2002 and 2007 teams likely would’ve been tough outs in the College Football Playoff era.

There’s also the 2018 National Championship Game. None of the key faces on that team will suit up for either side on Monday. But there were a few young players that were around that team and saw the work that went into that game.

“I was here when we was practicing for the national championship,” Jackson said. “And just being a part of the team just for that short amount of period for a whole week, it felt like I was part of the team. Just going back home after all the practices, being able to watch the game on TV kind of fueled myself that, man, in the next few months I’m about to be in those same colors with those same guys, can be playing for something that’s bigger than I ever expected, the national championship.”

Jackson and the Bulldogs will have a chance to do that after their commanding 34-11 win over the Michigan Wolverines in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Georgia dominated from the jump, scoring on its first five possessions of the game. The Wolverines didn’t find the endzone until late in the fourth quarter, with the starting defense long gone from the game at that point.

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There was some question though if the Bulldogs were capable of having that type of performance given how Georgia looked against Alabama in the SEC championship game. Alabama overwhelmed Georgia by scoring 31 points in a five-possession span and coasted to a 41-24 victory.

The emotions in the locker room after the result were raw.

“I cried. I’m 20 now. I’ve been playing football since I was 4 – 16 years, haven’t won anything. Haven’t won a championship,” Nolan Smith said. “I won a couple of bowl games but anything big, any championship I never won yet. That’s one thing that keeps me going. That’s just something in the back of my head that I know that keeps me driving and I just want to win. I could care less how it gets done, how pretty it looks; I just want to win and play ball.”

Jackson mentioned he too was hurt by the result, as he said all he wanted for his birthday was an SEC championship. A win in the national championship game will help ease some of the disappointment stemming from that game.

Cook on the other hand was more confident after Georgia’s only loss this season. He proved to be prophetic in that sense.

“I knew we had another shot myself and I knew we’d get another opportunity,” Cook said. “When we came out of the practice there, everybody came to work, we got that bad taste out of our mouth on Friday.”

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