Georgia needed a big play to stage a comeback. And it turned to walk-on kicker Jack Podlesny, as he made a career-long 53-yarder to boot Georgia to a 24-21 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats.
The Bulldogs re-possessed the ball with 1:28 remaining and drove to the Cincinnati 36-yard line thanks to a series of catches from Kenny McIntosh. After two straight incompletions, Podlesny trouted out and drilled the biggest kick of his career with :03 seconds left. It turned a 21-19 deficit into a 22-21 lead.
DAWGS ON TOP 🔥
Jack Podlesny hits a career-long 53-yard FG to cap the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl comeback for Georgia! pic.twitter.com/eMPZjKbW3f
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 1, 2021
Cincinnati’s final play of the game ended in a safety and a sack by Azeez Ojulari, who had 3.0 of Georgia’s 8.0 sacks in the game.
The loss was the first of the season for the Bearcats. Georgia finishes the season 8-2 and almost certainly in the top-10.
An interesting decision from Kirby Smart
Kirby Smart made another controversial decision around a punt in the fourth quarter of a game being played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
With the Bulldogs facing a fourth and three on their own 43-yard line, Smart took a timeout. Then instead of going for it, Smart elected to punt the ball back to the Cincinnati offense.
The Bearcats, who had struggled for much of the second half offensively, were able to do enough to force Georgia to use its timeouts. The Bulldogs got a stop, but it was still a curious decision from Smart.
The decision by Smart reminded many of Georgia’s 2018 SEC Championship Game when Georgia ran a fake punt on fourth and 11 with Justin Fields. The game was tied at 28 at that point in time. The Crimson Tide went on to score and win the game, sending Alabama to the College Football Playoff.
Still, the Georgia offense did just enough to bail out the decision as the Bulldogs were able to get the win.
JT Daniels less than stellar but big late
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding JT Daniels. You saw why that was the case as he had two 50-plus yard completions in the game. And he did engineer a late scoring drive when it mattered most to give Georgia the win.
But this was, by far, Daniels’ least impressive game as a Bulldog. He threw a costly interception in the endzone that kept points off the board for Georgia. He then had a fumble that Cincinnati recovered when Georgia was just outside the red zone, one of two fumbles for Daniels on the day. Those two turnovers were more than he had in the previous three games he started for Georgia.
There were also two instances of situational football where Daniels couldn’t come up with the play. The first came on a fourth and one when Daniels was unable to hook-up with Kearis Jackson. Then Daniels misfired on a two-point conversion attempt on Georgia’s first score of the fourth quarter.
But on Georgia’s final drive, Daniels completed five of his seven pass attempts for 44 yards to get Georgia in field-goal range.
Statistically, he completed 26 of his 38 pass attempts for 392 yards. He did have a touchdown pass to Pickens as well.
Three catches, 71 yards and a touchdown.
Not a bad first quarter for George Pickens. pic.twitter.com/YfkI4QjIRd
— Georgia Bulldogs (@UGAAthletics) January 1, 2021
It wasn’t an outright bad game for Daniels. It just wasn’t the sharpest of efforts from the transfer quarterback. This was just his fourth start for the Bulldogs after missing over a year due to an ACL injury.
When the Georgia offense took its final meaningful snap of the first half, it led 10-7. When the Bulldogs took their first snap of the second half, they were down 21-10.
The Bearcats swung the game with their play at the end of the first half and to start the second half. Cincinnati drove the length of the field and scored with just :06 left in the first half. Ridder scrambled around and was able to find his tight end Josh Whyle for a touchdown on a play that looked like it came straight out of the backyard.
Desmond Ridder has entered the chat. pic.twitter.com/CGIiJd3E1C
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) January 1, 2021
The Bearcats got the ball to open the second half and wasted little time adding to the lead. Cincinnati running back Jerome Ford was able to make safety Lewis Cine miss and raced to the endzone. The 79-yard run was the longest on a Georgia defense since the 2003 SEC Championship Game.
Former Alabama running back Jerome Ford with a 79-yard touchdown run vs. Georgia in the Peach Bowl pic.twitter.com/g4y1sr80Le
— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) January 1, 2021
With a two-score lead, Cincinnati really began to attack the Georgia offensive line and Daniels. The Bulldogs were unable to respond, as its first two drives got inside the Cincinnati 25 only to score zero points on both drives.
Offensive line struggles
The two position groups where Georgia was short-handed coming into the game was the secondary and the offensive line. You could tell that based on how those two units played in the Peach Bowl.
The secondary had a tough time against Ridder, as he threw for 206 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs were starting Tyrique Stevenson at corner due to DJ Daniel and Eric Stokes opting to declare for the NFL draft. Mark Webb was also unavailable, which is why Latavious Brinni got the start.
The Bulldogs did get a huge pass breakup late from Stevenson to force Cincinnati’s final punt.
The offensive line may have been even worse. The Bulldogs had to reshuffle their offensive line due to the absences of Trey Hill and Ben Cleveland. The Bulldogs went with Xavier Truss at left tackle, Jamaree Salyer at left guard, Warren Ericson at center, Justin Shaffer at right guard and Warren McClendon at right tackle.
Georgia is currently averaging negative rush yards before contact. With no room to run, only 2 of their 8 designed runs have found success. The Dawgs have been hit in the backfield on half of their tries. I'd care about these stats if I was them…https://t.co/QSNTiXpKkV pic.twitter.com/UKykGsnWJm
— SEC StatCat (@SEC_StatCat) January 1, 2021
The Bulldogs ran for just 45 yards in the game, with just 28 of them coming in the first half. With Georgia falling behind, it allowed Cincinnati to pressure Daniels. The Bearcats had 3.0 sacks in the game.
This wasn’t the first time this year the Georgia offensive line has struggled, as this performance brings back memories of the Mississippi State game when Georgia ran for just eight yards. The Bulldogs also happened to be in black jerseys that day as well.
Georgia has recruited very well along both of those positions. But that didn’t seem to matter against the Bearcats, as Cincinnati clearly got the better of Georgia in both these areas.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- Social media reacts to uneven start, George Pickens excellence for Georgia in Peach Bowl
- LOOK: Dell McGee honors running back James Cook by wearing his jersey during Peach Bowl
- Kirby Smart: Georgia wearing black jerseys in Peach Bowl by request
- Xavier Truss ‘next man up’ on offensive line in Peach Bowl
- Kirby Smart makes the case for expanding College Football Playoff to 12 teams
- 10 things said about Georgia QB JT Daniels: ‘He’s like Google’
- Georgia football podcast: UGA can prove Kirk Herbstreit correct with Peach Bowl win
- Kirby Smart confirms James Cook will not play in Peach Bowl against Cincinnati
- Georgia makes it clear it’s focused on Cincinnati and will do so in black jerseys