ATHENS — There were so many plays in Georgia’s Rose Bowl matchup against Oklahoma that absolutely had to happen for the Bulldogs to win. Some of them already have been detailed in this series. But none of them were more important or meaningful than Lorenzo Carter’s block of the Sooners’ short field-goal attempt in the second overtime of the CFP semifinals.
That was the moment that all those Georgia fans in the Rose Bowl, all those tuning in on television at home and in “watch parties” all across the state, all those Bulldogs on the field and on the UGA sideline in Pasadena, knew that it was finally going to happen. Georgia was going to win the game and reach the National Championship Game in Atlanta. That was THE moment of the year.
Sony Michel’s 27-yard run in the second overtime clinched Georgia’s 54-48 win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. (Associated Press)
Yes, Georgia still had to score. The Bulldogs had to make good on the opportunity that Carter gave them, and they did when Sony Michel scampered 27 yards for a touchdown on a “Wild Dawg” sweep. That was a dramatic and very fitting end, especially considering the game Michel had to that point and the make-good it allowed from his fourth-quarter fumble.
“I knew it was over,” Michel said of his thoughts as he crossed the goal line. “We finally get to play for something big.”
But at that point, Georgia could’ve won a number of ways. The Bulldogs were playing their second-overtime possession conservatively. They would have been confident and perfectly satisfied with a Rodrigo Blankenship field-goal try from the very spot they began, which would’ve resulted in a 42-yard attempt. Blankenship, who had made 55- and 38-yarders earlier, had proven he was up for whatever Georgia needed on this day.
No, it was Carter’s penetration, his 6-foot-6 frame, those long arms, the ring and pinky fingers on his right hand, that had gifted the Bulldogs with this relatively stress-free opportunity. And seeing that football spin like a top in the back of the end zone short of the uprights gave the Bulldogs a collective tingle they hadn’t felt in a long, long while.
One of the most amazing aspects of the play was just the fact that Carter was in position to make it. While he’s almost always on Georgia’s field-goal block unit, rarely is he asked to try to block the kick. Lined up on the left side of the defensive formation, his primary responsibility is to cover the tight end or provide outside containment in case of a fake.
But the way Oklahoma lined up, it had an ineligible receiver on Carter’s side of the formation. “So I got a chance to get in there and get after it,” Carter said afterward.
Carter said he had almost gotten a hand on Austin Seibert’s previous kick, a 33-yarder in the first overtime. But he didn’t get deep enough into backfield. This time, he decided he was going to seek the gap and try to jump through it.
And that’s what Carter did, lifting his legs in perfect time to clear the thighs of the tackle and end and reaching inside with his right hand. He felt the ball slap the outside of his hand, but he wasn’t sure if he got enough of it until he turned and saw the ball spinning in the end zone.
“I stayed on my feet, got my hands up, and got one on the ball,” Carter said of the first field-goal block of his career on any level. “When I saw it didn’t go through, it was just crazy.”
It was pandemonium. Carter was mobbed by his teammates on the Georgia sideline and got hit on the helmet so many times he thought they were going to “knock me out.” He was presented with the coveted golden “Junkyard Dawg” shoulder pads, which he wore off the field and into the Bulldogs locker room.
For Michel to punctuate the play with a 27-yard TD run on second down just put an exclamation point on the whole affair. Michel, a fellow senior, had been awesome the whole game, finishing with 222 total yards and 4 touchdowns.
Scoring the winning touchdown helped Michel atone for his potentially devastating mishap. With 6:52 remaining in regulation, Michel had fumbled the ball on a hit by Caleb Kelly. Oklahoma’s Steven Parker scooped up the ball in front of the Oklahoma sideline and returned it 46 yards to give the Sooners what many thought would be the game-winning touchdown.
Alas, the Bulldogs would tie it up on a Nick Chubb touchdown with 55 seconds remaining to force the overtime. And between linebacker Roquan Smith’s tackles and a Blankenship 38-yard field goal, the Bulldogs got the game into a second overtime.
There, Carter seemed to say, “I got this, boys.”
Afterward, Georgia’s defensive-minded coach Kirby Smart said the high-scoring affair nearly gave him a heart attack. His heart, he said, couldn’t have beaten much harder.
“It’d be pretty high on the Richter scale,” he said.
The Bulldog Nation might concur.
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