ATLANTA — For the third straight year, the College Football Playoff championship game was an unbelievable, thrilling, back-and-forth game.
And for the second time in three years, Alabama came out on top, holding off Georgia 26-23 with a stunning overtime victory.
Georgia led 13-0 at the half and still led 20-10 entering the fourth quarter, but Alabama fought back in the final quarter to force overtime. The Crimson Tide then won it in stunning fashion.
Rodrigo Blankenship put Georgia on top 23-20 on its overtime drive with a 51-yard field goal. But then Alabama responded. After a sack on the Tide’s first play, Tua Tagovailoa hit DeVonta Smith with a 41-yard strike for the win.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart addressed the loss, saying his Bulldogs are just getting started after their great season and will be back.
Kirby Smart: "I think everybody can see that Georgia is going to be a force to be reckoned with. We're not going anywhere."
— David Paschall (@DavidSPaschall) January 9, 2018
On being in the game: “This was an incredible opportunity for the University of Georgia. It’s our privilege to represent the institution, our fans and players, in what I think is one of the greatest events in sports, the College Football Playoff system.”
On the seniors: “I can’t say enough about the remarkable senior class. These two young men sitting next to me [Nick Chubb and Sony Michel], they meant more to Georgia than yards. A lot of heart and soul. A lot of fire. Sony Michel came over and talked to the group several times during the game, inspired those guys. But in overtime, we didn’t finish when we had to, and Alabama did.”
On any surprises of the first title game appearance as a head coach: Not really surprises. It obviously helped a lot having done that from a coordinator’s position. So we saw how to manage the turnaround, the quick turnaround, recovery for the team, how much to practice, where to travel, where to practice. There’s a lot of things that go into the decision-making process that I thought really helped having done that before.”
On quarterback Jake Fromm: “You know, Jake’s a special kid. He’s a gamer. He understands the game of football. He sees spacing on the field. He sees guys open, very accurate passer. I mean, I think, if you want to find out about Jake Fromm, go ask those guys on the other side of the ball, and they’ll tell you because that’s a really good defense he just went against.”
On the mindset going into overtime: “Mindset in overtime is pretty much common across college football. You want to play defense. We lost pretty much every coin toss we’ve had. We lost the one before the game in Pasadena and we lost the one in overtime in Pasadena. We lost the one before this game, and we lost the one in overtime. We’ve got to get some new guys to call the coin toss or something. But you want to play defense first and find out what the other team’s got. Fortunately, we’ve got a good field goal kicker who drilled it, had ice in his veins and made a huge kick that I’ll never forget to put us in a situation to have a chance to win, and then we couldn’t close it out defensively.”
On the team learned moving forward: “Yeah, I don’t really know. I do know this, and I want to say this. The standard’s been set by these young men right here. I can’t put into words what these seniors mean. We’re running out of the tunnel [Monday], and this guy over here next to me, [Chubb] comes by me and says, ‘I’ll go anywhere with you,’ and ‘I’ll follow you anywhere,’ and ‘I’ll fight for you because I believe in you.’ And that meant more to me than anything. The way he practices, the way he’s in every meeting, the way he carries himself, the way Sony Michel affects players on our team, Isaiah Wynn, Roquan [Smith], all these guys have been incredible leaders. And if we have that kind of leadership, there’s no doubt. The sky’s the limit. Because these guys are hungry. I just hope the younger class doesn’t take it for granted that it’s just going to happen. You’ve got to make it happen, and they’ve got to believe that.”
On the offensive line: “That’s a big, big bunch, and our offensive line fought, Isaiah Wynn fought, Lamont Gaillard fought, Kendall Baker, they fought tooth and nail. They hammered. I’m just sick for these kids. They deserved to win. Sony Michel made some runs [Monday]. I’m talking about just willed himself to five and six yards and we talked about that, that 5- and 6-yard runs are really good against these guys, and the offense did an incredible job of doing that.”
On throwing the ball early: “Yeah, I think — I don’t know if they’re first in rush defense in the country, I don’t know. But they’ve got big guys up front. It’s hard to run the ball against Alabama. It’s really tough. That’s what makes them great. They’ve got depth in the front. [Nick Saban] does a tremendous job of recruiting defensive linemen and they make it really hard to run the ball. So we wanted to be able to throw it and loosen them up. I thought Jake did a good job, and in the end we were able to run the ball some. But when it mattered most and counted most, we couldn’t close it out and run the ball for first downs and it probably hurt us.”