ATLANTA — With President Donald Trump in the building, the Georgia Bulldogs showed they’re not great again quite yet.
But they were very, very good.
Alabama backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith in overtime to lift the Crimson Tide to a 26-23 win over Georgia in the College Football Playoff Championship Game. The winning play came after a 51-yard field goal by Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship.
Jonathan Ledbetter and Davin Bellamy had sacked Tagovailoa for a 16-yard loss before the touchdown. But Smith got free on a deep route down the left sideline behind Bulldogs’ cornerback Malkom Parrish.
The Bulldogs led perennial powerhouse Alabama 20-7 with 6:52 remaining in the third quarter but could not hold on as Alabama rallied behind the freshman Tagovailoa, who was inserted in the second half after starter Jalen Hurts proved ineffective. Tagovailoa led the Crimson Tide on 4 second-half scoring drives to knot the game at 20-all and send it into overtime.
There should have been a fifth scoring drive in regulation, but Alabama place-kicker Andy Pappanastos hooked his 36-yard, game-winning field goal try wide left as time expired, sending the game in to overtime. The Crimson Tide had driven 48 yards in nine plays to set up the try.
Making their first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoffs, Georgia’s second season under coach Kirby Smart ends at 13-2. Alabama, which was the fourth seed in the playoffs, gets its fifth national championship under coach Nick Saban in his nine year at Alabama and 16th overall.
The loss spoiled what had been an exemplary performance for Bulldogs freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, for the first three quarters at least. Fromm’s efficiency on third down thwarted Bama’s stout defense time and time again, and kept the chains moving for Georgia. He finished with 232 yards passing and had converted 7 of 13 first downs at one point. But the Bulldogs were 1 of 6 the rest of the game as Alabama forced four consecutive three-and-outs.
The game reached overtime only after Pappanastos hooked a 36-yard field goal wide left as time expired in regulation. Pappanastos also missed a 40-yarder in the first quarter.
Fromm’s work was exemplary on a 9-play, 69-yard scoring drive that resulted in a touchdown a 13-0 lead 7 seconds before halftime. But the signature play in national championship lore will be his picture-perfect throw to Mecole Hardman on third-and-11 that resulted in an 80-yard, sideline-tiptoeing touchdown. That gave the Bulldogs a 20-7 lead with 6:52 to go in the third quarter.