INDIANAPOLIS — Alabama quarterback Bryce Young doesn’t put any stock in equity where Georgia is concerned, fully aware the scoreboard will read 0-0 when Monday night’s championship game kicks off in Lucas Oil Stadium.
“We don’t start with any more points because of anything that’s happened with the past,” Young said on his Zoom call on Saturday, asked about the unique nature of having a rematch in the CFP Championship Game. “Anything in the past is exactly that, in the past. You don’t get any carry-over.”
The Bulldogs’ front seven will, however, continue their chase of a player they refer to as “The Gingerbread Man” after failing to record a sack for the first time all season in the last meeting against Alabama.
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Georgia did get pressure -- 15 QB hurries -- but they weren’t able to get Young on the ground.
“Bryce is an extremely talented athlete, he’s slippery,” UGA All-American Jordan Davis said, likening Young to Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray, who the Indianapolis Colts’ referred to as the Gingerbread Man. “That’s what we’ve been calling him all week. Just seeing him run around our defense in the SEC Championship Game, you have to tighten up.”
Young, who set SEC Championship Game records with 421 yards passing and 461 total yards against Georgia, seemed caught off-guard by the Gingerbread Man reference.
“I hadn’t heard that until now, but I guess it’s a compliment,” Young said. “We know how good that front seven is. We have a ton of respect for them, that entire defense. We understand the challenge that’s at hand. There’s a respect factor there. So we have respect. It’s just on us to prepare during the week to put ourselves in the best position to be successful and execute when the time comes.”
Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, who leads the Bulldogs with 6 sacks, concedes Young is a special talent.
“I feel that he’s one of the best ones as far as sitting in that pocket and staying calm; II feel like he does that better than anybody,” Dean said. “He’s busy, just sit there, be calm and being able to extend plays and make plays. Just his ability to do that also just makes it tougher for the front seven to get aggressive.
“We’ve been kind of working on that and basically trying to make it a different outcome than the last time where we had no sacks, very uncharacteristic of us.”
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Davis said the Bulldogs have used a speedy receiver to emulate Young in practice, the better to prepare them for the speedy, elusive Gingerbread Man.
“I’ve been going against like wide receivers in our quarterback rodeo drill in practice,” Davis said. “I’m a defensive lineman, it takes a lot of skill and a lot of practice, and it teaches you to track the hips. We’ve just been tracking hips all practice. And definitely this go-around we’ll try to contain him and get him.”
The season-ending injury to Alabama receiver John Metchie, a popular third-down target for Young with 96 catches before suffering a knee injury in the second quarter of the SEC title game, could make things more difficult.
“Metchie is someone that you just can’t replace,” Young said. “Losing Metchie was huge for us; that definitely hurt. It’s really tough.
“We’ve had a little bit of time to adjust … second half of the SEC Championship and in the Cincinnati game, people stepped up and are going to continue to do that. (But) it’s not something you can replace, someone like Metchie, just someone that you can just plug someone else in and get the same from. It definitely hurt.”
The Tide beat the Bearcats 27-6, but Young wasn’t as effective against Cincinnati has Georgia, 17-of-28 passing for 181 yards with 3 TDs, an interception and 2 sacks.
And now comes this Georgia defense again, with three of the players on the defense front projected to be selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft: Dean, Davis and Travon Walker.
“So it’s going to be a new game, and we have to earn the outcome that we want,” Young explained. “So it’s really just been knowing that whatever’s happened in the past doesn’t entitle you to anything at all. You learn from it, but we have to understand we’re playing a completely different game. We have to understand that we have to earn that for 60 minutes.
“Again, it starts with preparation and day by day putting ourselves in the position to be successful when the game starts. But we understand it’s different. We have to earn it. Anything that happened in the past, learn from it but it’s in the past. It’s on us to work day in, day out and to earn the outcome that we want.”
Georgia defensive end Nolan Smith made it clear the Bulldogs won’t be in a giving mood.
“It’s our job as pass rushers to get after the quarterback and we didn’t do that,” Smith said. “The difference between this game and that game is we just have to do it. We have to find a way. I believe in our coaches. I trust in the plan that we now are talking over still to be able to do that.”