Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart reacts during the first half of the College Football Playoff Semifinal between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl In Atlanta on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Georgia football Ohio State instant observations as Bulldogs win a classic comeback

ATLANTA — Georgia showed its championship mettle on Saturday night and started the year with a bang, literally.

It fell behind by 14 points twice. It looked out of it. At one point, it seemed like the Bulldogs have waved a white flag kicking a field goal down by 14 with 10 minutes remaining.

But the Bulldogs kept chopping and improbably came back to take a 42-41 lead after AD Mitchell hauled in a Stetson Bennett touchdown pass with 54 seconds remaining.

Stroud did so without star receiver Marvin Harrison, who left the game in the fourth quarter. Bennett finished the game with a career-high passing 398 yards and four touchdowns and an interception.

Arian Smith also had a career day, catching three passes for 129 yards and a touchdown, which came on a 76-yard reception.

Another key play in the game was a heady timeout called by Kirby Smart to snuff out a fake punt by Ohio State. The Smith touchdown followed the actual punt by the Buckeyes.

Neither Georgia or Ohio State scored on their opening possessions of the game. From them on though, it was a full-blown points marathon.

Ohio State scored first as Harrison Jr. hauled in the first of his two touchdown catches from Stroud to go up 7-0. The Bulldogs responded with a Kenny McIntosh touchdown catch to even the score.

But the Buckeyes went down and scored again to push it to 14-7. On the first play of the next Georgia drive, Bennett threw a pass right to Ohio State linebacker Steele Chambers to set up Ohio State’s third touchdown drive.

The 21-7 lead was Georgia’s largest deficit of the season.

But the Bulldogs fought back mixing in a number of explosive plays while churning out yards on the ground to re-take the lead. Kendall. Milton added an 11-yard touchdown run and Bennett responded with a three-yard rushing touchdown. A Jack Podlesny field goal gave Georgia a 24-21 lead with 1:44 to go in the half.

Ohio State than showed its own mental toughness, responding with a four-play, 75-yard drive to give the Buckeyes the lead going into halftime. Stroud threw for 238 yards on 19 pass attempts in the first half, with three of them going for touchdowns.

Both teams had 13 first downs, but Georgia actually outgained Ohio State, 313 to 248 in the opening 30 minutes of game action.

Georgia football news and notes from game against Ohio State

Amarius Mims got the start at right tackle for Georgia, replacing Warren McClendon. He picked up a knee injury in the game against LSU. McClendon did dress out for Georgia.

Kearis Jackson was returning punts for Georgia, a duty normally held by Ladd McConkey. McConkey did play in the game.

The Bulldogs saw two key contributors exited the game with injury, as tight end Darnell Washington suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and outside linebacker Chaz Chambliss left the game with a knee injury. Oscar Delp replaced Washington in the lineup while Chambliss saw Marvin Jones Jr. take up more of his reps.

Georgia freshman Mykel Williams also left the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.

TCU beat Michigan 51-45 to be the other team to advance to the College Football Playoff championship game.

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