kirby smart-gatorade-alabama
December 31, 2021 Miami Gardens, Florida - Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart coaches on the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Michigan Wolverines 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)

Kirby Smart stiff arms Gatorade bath because Alabama is next

Zamir White and James Cook had the cooler in hand. They were ready to cover their head coach in Gatorade after ta 34-11 beating of Michigan to win the Orange Bowl and advance to the national championship game.

But Kirby Smart had other ideas. Sure he didn’t want to be covered in the sticky sports drink. But he also knew this win didn’t deserve that moment.

“Yeah, I was wanting to get a real shower, not a Gatorade bath, because I want to get focused on Alabama,” Smart said. “They got a five, six-hour head start. To be honest with you guys, I’m not interested in celebrating that. We’ll look back on that win and that’ll be great, but we’re focused on the task ahead, and that’s the objective and that’s what our guys -- they worked their tail off for three to four weeks to get this opportunity, and it was a one-game season, and now it’s another one-game season.”

It all happened so fast Cook couldn’t even make out what happened. He just knew to put the cooler down and walk away.

As confetti fell, We Are The Champions was playing in Hard Rock Stadium. For most teams, this would be a crowning moment. Those who remember the Georgia-Oklahoma likely recall a much more celebratory atmosphere after the thrilling win.

Smart and members of the Georgia team were having none of it. Not with Alabama already getting to work on a rematch.

“There’s definitely one more game,” linebacker Nakobe Dean said. “Champs not at all. Job not finished. We didn’t do our everything we did this whole season just to win the Orange Bowl. Job not finished.”

A few hours before Georgia stomped Michigan, Alabama cruised past Cincinnati in a similar fashion. The Crimson Tide got up early on the Bearcats and suffocated the last unbeaten team in college football over the final quarters. Brian Robinson rushed for 204 yards in the win, while Bryce Young threw for three touchdowns in the 27-6 win.

It will be the second time Georgia and Alabama meet this season. It will be the second time the two schools have met in the national championship game since Smart became the head coach of the Georgia program.

Those past two prior results were both Georgia losses, as has been the case the last seven times Georgia and Alabama have played. The national championship loss was a 26-23 heartbreaker, with Tua Tagovialoa throwing a 41-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game to DeVonta Smith. The more recent defeat was a 41-24 drubbing, with Alabama lighting up the Georgia defense in a way it hasn’t been this season.

Many wondered how Georgia would respond coming off its first loss of the season. The Bulldogs emphatically answered that in the first half, with Georgia up 27-3. Stetson Bennett delivered his best game as a Bulldog, throwing for 301 yards and 3 touchdowns.

For him, the game against Michigan was just to get another crack at Alabama, an opponent that has perhaps defined him more than any member of the Georgia program.

“For us to come together after all the hours and all the off-season work and fall camp and just the grind of the season and be able to give ourselves a chance to go to a national championship, it’s pretty special,” Bennett said. “But like Coach said, this game was just so we could play the next game.”

Much will be made about what Georgia can do differently when the two teams meet on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis. Alabama won’t have wide receiver John Metchie or cornerback Josh Jobe in the rematch, with both playing key parts in the 41-24 win.

The Bulldogs also hope a healthier Chris Smith and a better defensive plan will help limit the Crimson Tide. After Smart downplayed a shoulder injury that Brock Bowers had been dealing with, the Bulldogs seem to be as healthy as they have been all season.

When Alabama and Georgia met in Atlanta on Dec. 4, the Crimson Tide played its best game of the season. Georgia played its worst. The Bulldogs responded with perhaps their best showing all season against what had been a deserving Michigan team.

If the Bulldogs look like they did on Friday, Georgia might finally get to give Smart that Gatorade bath.

“At the end of the day we play a new game, a new team. The past didn’t affect us,” defensive tackle Jordan Davis said. “We just have to make sure that we keep moving forward in the future. The past is history, but the future’s mystery.”

Jordan Davis ready for rematch against Alabama

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