It took everything Georgia football had to overcome itself and a determined Cincinnati team on Friday in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Kicker Jack Podlesny made a 53-yard field goal with three seconds left to lift the Bulldogs (8-2) to a 1-point lead over the Bearcats (9-1), and then Azeez Ojulari finished them off with a safety on the final play for the 24-21 win.
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels was 26-of-38 passing for 392 yards with a TD and an interception.
The Bulldogs out-gained Cincinnati 449-307, but they had three empty trips inside the red zone and trailed 21-10 entering the fourth quarter.
Daniels, now 4-0 as UGA’s starter, directed an 8-play, 44-yard drive to set up Podlesny’s field goal after the Bulldogs started at their own 20-yard line with 1:28 left.
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder was 24-of-37 passing for 206 yards and two touchdowns, but the Bulldogs defense sacked him 8 times.
Ojulari had three of those sacks and two forced fumbles.
The Bearcats are now 27-1 when leading by double-digits under Coach Luke Fickell, and 26-2 when leading at the half.
It was Georgia’s 24th-straight bowl trip, the longest in the nation, and the New Year’s Six Bowl win assures the Bulldogs of a fourth-straight Top 10 finish under Kirby Smart.
Smart is now 10-6 against teams ranked in the Top 10.
Georgia 24, Cincinnati 21 (0:00): Azeez Ojulari sacks Desmond Ridder in end zone.
Georgia 22, Cincinnati 21 (0:02): Jack Podlesny 53-yard field goal. Drive: Eight plays, 44 yards, 1:26.
Cincinnati 21, Georgia 19, (6:43): Jack Podlesny 32-yard field goal. Drive: Six plays, 61 yards, 2:16.
Cincinnati 21, Georgia 16, (13:20): Zamir White 9-yard run (conversion pass failed). Drive: Two plays, 25 yards, 41 seconds. Key play: Azeez Ojulari forced fumble, Adam Anderson recovers at Cincinnati 25.
Cincinnati 21, Georgia 10, (14:11): Jerome Ford 79-yard run (Cole Smith kick). Drive: Two plays, 75 yards, 49 seconds.
Cincinnati 14, Georgia 10, 0:06: Josh Whyle 11-yard pass from Desmond Ridder (Cole Smith kick). Drive: 9 plays, 75 yards, 3:40. Key Play: Michael Young Jr. 25-yard catch from Desmond Ridder to Georgia 45-yard line on third-and-5.
Georgia 10, Cincinnati 7, 3:46: Jack Podlesny 38-yard field goal. Drive: Six plays, 60 yards, 2:51. Key Play: Arian Smith 55-yard catch from JT Daniels to Cincinnati 25.
• Cole Smith 23-yard field goal blocked by Jordan Davis.
Georgia 7, Cincinnati 7 (0:29 ): George Pickens 16-yard pass from JT Daniels (Jack Podlesny kick). Drive: Five plays, 44 yards, 2:07. Key play: Darnell Washington 38-yard catch to UC 12.
Cincinnati 7, Georgia 0 (4:38): Alec Pierce 14-yard catch from Desmond Ridder ( Cole Smith kick). Drive: Seven plays, 42 yards, 3:45. Key play: Jake Camarda shanks punt 4 yards, to UGA 42.
“Desmond [Ridder] needs to have a huge game. He’s got good legs. He’s gonna need them.”
— Caleb Noe (@CalebNoeTV) January 1, 2021
ATHENS — Georgia football is putting a lid on its 2020 season in Friday’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta, looking to close out what could be a fourth-straight Top 10 season in the program’s fourth-straight finish at the elite New Year’s Six Bowl level.
The No. 9-ranked Bulldogs (7-2) are facing No. 8-ranked Cincinnati (9-0) at noon in Mercedes-Benz Stadium at noon (TV: ESPN).
Georgia brings in the No. 1 run defense in the nation, and the No. 14 total defense, but the Bulldogs have yielded an average of 253.4 passing yards per game (91st) and face dangerous Bearcats QB Desmond Ridder.
UGA defensive coordinator Dan Lanning said what makes Ridder unique is his ability to run the football.
“He makes a lot of checks at the line, (and) he’s obviously a really savvy player from an intelligence standpoint,” Lanning said. “He can make all the throws, is a dynamic runner as well.”
Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean echoed his DC.
“You can definitely tell by the film that he’s a play-maker,” Dean said. “He runs that whole offense. The whole offense runs through him. Basically he’s the heartbeat of the offense.”
The fact UGA outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari is suiting up for the game, after sources had said he was considering opting out, is big for the Bulldogs.
Ojulari will bring the sort of pressure off the edge that the Bearcats have not seen in the AAC, and that could prove to be a game changer.