December 31, 2021 Miami Gardens, Florida - Georgia Bulldogs running back James Cook (4) runs after catching a long pass against Michigan Wolverines linebacker Junior Colson (25) during the second quarter in the 2021 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium, Friday, in Miami Gardens, Fl. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Georgia puts squeeze on Michigan in Orange Bowl CFP Semifinal, 34-11

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Georgia football hunkered down, showing the grit and execution that enabled Coach Kirby Smart’s program to hold the No. 1 spot in the rankings a school-record eight weeks this season.

The Bulldogs blasted the Wolverines by a 34-11 count in the Orange Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal at Hard Rock Stadium on Friday night, advancing to the CFP title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Jan. 10.

Stetson Bennett was 21-of-31 passing for 307 yards with 3 touchdowns, winning offensive MVP honors, and James Cook piled up 131 yards from scrimmage.

UGA cornerback Derion Kendrick delivered the first multi-interception game of the season to win defensive MVP honors.

Alabama handled Cincinnati earlier on Friday by a 27-6 count, setting up a rematch of the SEC Championship Game won by the Tide 41-24 in Mercedes-Benz stadium.

It figures to be a different Bulldogs’ team this time around, based on Georgia’s dominance over a proud Michigan football team that was making its first-ever CFP appearance.

To be clear, this Bulldogs’ team was bleeding internally in the aftermath of the shocking loss to an Alabama team that had entered the teams’ most recent meeting as an underdog for the first time in five years.

Smart and his team leaders had work to do holding the team together and ensuring the necessary focus was in place for Orange Bowl preparations.

Still, a good start against Michigan on Friday night was paramount, if only for the Bulldogs to regain the swagger the Tide knocked out of Georgia’s silver britches.

Bennett, who found himself publicly embattled over the holiday break, did his part by making special deliveries out of the gate.

Bennett completed his first nine passes in the game, including three on the opening touchdown drive, and three more on the second touchdown drive as Georgia jumped out to a 14-0 lead.

It was foreign territory for the Wolverines, who had scored first in 12 of their 13 wins, and appeared ill-equipped to rally.

Michigan entered the game with the most celebrated offensive line in college football, having won the coveted Joe Moore Award.

But a Wolverines unit that allowed a Power 5-conference low 10 sacks, surrendered 4 sacks (and 7 tackles for loss) to the Bulldogs, and managed just 88 yards rushing on 27 carries.

Bennett, meanwhile, made the sort of plays that validated the confidence Smart has shown in him.

Bennett lived up to his “Mailman” by connecting on two passes longer than 50 yards in the first half, and scrambling 20 yards for a first down.

Still, Smart made it clear he expected even more, getting in Bennett’s earhole as he exited the field at the end of the first half for mismanaging the clock.

WATCH: Kirby Smart goes off on Stetson Bennett at end of half

By the end of the night, Georgia was all smiles, having put the Wolverines and the doubters behind them, sharing the top of the college football world with Alabama.

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