INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Kirby Smart closed the season the same way he started it, serving notice that Georgia football would be the hunters.

The Bulldogs bagged their second consecutive national championship with a resounding 65-7 win over TCU in the CFP Championship Game at SoFi Stadium on Saturday night.

RELATED: Game story, Georgia stakes claim to dynasty, beats Horned Frogs in record fashion

“Really aggressive plan, not holding back anything,” Smart said, asked about an attack that netted six sacks and forced three turnovers.

“We wanted our kids to play without fear, and all year I told them, I said, ‘We ain’t getting hunted, guys. We’re doing the hunting and hunting season’s almost over. We’ve only got one more chance to hunt,’ and we hunted tonight.”

That they did, racing out to a 38-7 halftime lead and out-gaining the Horned Frogs 589 yards to 188 with 32 first downs to TCU’s 9.

This was a season many thought unlikely, with Georgia losing an NFL-record 15 players in last year’s draft and another 13 exiting via the transfer portal.

Smart -- now 81-15 after seven years at UGA, including a current streak of 17 straight games when having more than a week to prepare -- said the returning players, many of the young and not yet game proven, took the challenge of filling big shoes to heart.

“They had a will to work,” said Smart, who is 17-7 against Top 10 ranked teams after the win over No. 3 TCU. “They didn’t listen to what everybody said about them, and everybody doubted them to start the year.

“That chip open the shoulder was just big enough to create an edge for our team, because every time they got doubted, they came out fighting.”

Indeed, many had wondered how Georgia would respond after squeezing past Ohio State, 42-41, in a breathtaking CFP Peach Bowl Semifinal that came down to the final second.

Could the Bulldogs and quarterback Stetson Bennett respond?

Smart had called out Bennett for his costly interception against the Buckeyes, saying he would need to play within the system and improve his level of play for Georgia to win the national championship.

Bennett took that message to heart and responded with a historic performance, tying the CFP Championship Game record by accounting for six touchdowns.

RELATED: Stetson Bennett proclaims Georgia ‘champions of the whole damn world’

Bennett was 18-of-25 passing for 304 yards and 4 touchdowns in addition to rushing for 39 yards and 2 touchdowns on just three carries.

“He’s meant a lot to me, personally, because of what he’s gone through and what he’s put up with from the outside noise,” said Smart, who benched Bennett for JT Daniels at the end of the 2020 season and into 2021 before Daniels suffered upper-body injuries.

“But to this university, for a kid that was told he wasn’t good enough, to come back and win two national championships, and he’s really phenomenal.”

Indeed, Smart had pursued Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams in the transfer portal after Bennett had led the Bulldogs to the 2021 championship, beating Alabama 33-18.

When Williams followed Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley to USC, Bennett was promised the Georgia job and returned for the 2022 season.

Bennett quarterbacked the Bulldogs to the school’s first-ever 14-0 season, including a 50-30 SEC Championship Game victory over LSU.

Bennett was just as impressive at times against TCU.

“He did some things tonight that are just electric, and he’s one of a kind,” Smart said. “He’s a special football player and he should get many opportunities to keep playing.”

Bennett has been evaluated by NFL teams and might still receive an invitation to a postseason all-star game in addition to the NFL combine.