A really interesting part of the first few seasons with the new College Football Playoff system has been the relative lack of competition in Semi-Final games. In the first three seasons, only one game finished as a one score difference (Ohio State vs Alabama, 2015), and four of the six have been decided by 20 points or more. That trend didn’t hold true today from Pasadena, as Oklahoma and Georgia fought back and forth for the entire game and into double overtime, before Georgia ultimately pulled out the win. With this victory, the Bulldogs are one step closer to a national title, and will face off against the winner of Alabama vs. Clemson on January 8th, in Atlanta.
The game couldn’t have started much better for Oklahoma. They won the toss, deferred, and quickly forced Georgia into a four-and-out. Off the quick stop, the Sooners marched down the field, and struck first, on a six play, 80 yard drive, capped by a beautiful 13 touchdown pass to Marquise Brown off a well designed run pass option.
The Sooner dominance early on was short-lived, however, as Georgia responded quickly, with a 25 yard run from Nick Chubb and a 20 yarder from Sony Michel down inside the Oklahoma 30. Just two plays later the Bulldogs reached the redzone on an intermediate completion to Javon Wims, and followed that up with a 13 yard touchdown pass to Michel, as they tied the game, just under three minutes after Oklahoma took the lead.
The early game track meet continued, as Oklahoma responded once again with a quick touchdown, thanks in large part to a massive 45 yard run from Rodney Anderson, and two plays later, the redshirt sophomore back found his way into the endzone from nine yards out, giving OU a 14-7 lead just under ten minutes into the game.
After a missed Georgia kick, Oklahoma struck again to open the second quarter, with a 41 yard Rodney Anderson touchdown run to extend the lead to 21-7, just a minute into the second quarter. Apparently Sony Michel was tired of Rodney Anderson having all the fun however, as he housed a 75 yarder on Georgia’s first play of the new series and cut the lead back to seven.
Georgia kept Oklahoma out of the endzone for the first time a drive later, forcing the Sooners into a field goal, as Oklahoma tacked on three points. After trading punts for a couple of minutes, Oklahoma, sparked by a 45 yard Marquise Brown reception, found the endzone again just before the end of the half, with an incredible one yard reverse touchdown pass from CeeDee Lamb to Baker Mayfield, extending the lead to 31-14. Georgia added a quick 55 yard field goal, sending the game to halftime at 31-17. The 31 first half points are a playoff record.
After a quick stop to start the second half, Georgia was quickly back in the game, as Nick Chubb broke free for a 50 yard touchdown run on Georgia’s first play of the half, cutting the difference back to seven at 31-24. The rest of the third quarter wasn’t much better for the Sooners, as they struggled offensively, punting three times, with Georgia getting pressure on Mayfield for the first time in the game.
The awful third quarter was capped by another big play for Sony Michel, as he took a 38 yard rush to the house, tying the game at 31 with just 40 seconds left in the quarter.
The fourth quarter didn’t start much better. Seemingly feeling the pressure, Baker Mayfield sailed a pass to Mark Andrews, and had it intercepted, and two plays later Javon Wims was in the endzone, giving Georgia a 38-31 lead, their first of the game. As the quarter crept on, it became more and more obvious that the Georgia defense was getting to Oklahoma, and more specifically, Baker Mayfield, as the Sooners struggled greatly to move the ball in the second half.
However, when the Sooners needed a touchdown drive most, their Heisman winning quarterback stepped up, driving the offense down the field, and delivering an 11 yard touchdown pass to Dimitri Flowers to tie the game at 38 with nine minutes to go. On the very next drive, with the Bulldogs driving, Sony Michel cut to the outside, saw a little space, but lost the ball, as Steven Parker recovered the fumble and returned it for a touchdown, giving the lead back to Oklahoma with seven minutes to go.
With the game hanging in the balance, and the Sooners up seven, both defenses stood tall, forcing back to back punts, and with three and a half minutes, Georgia had 60 yards between them and a tie game. With the calmness of a far more experienced player, Jake Fromm marched the Bulldogs down, and with just under a minute Nick Chubb powered into the endzone, tying the game at 45. With under a minute, Oklahoma couldn’t get into field goal range, and after 60 incredible minutes, the Rose Bowl was headed to overtime for the first time ever.
Oklahoma held Georgia to a field goal in overtime, and on fourth and one, with the game on the line, kicker Austin Siebert drilled a 33 yarder to send the game to a second overtime.
On third and five for Oklahoma’s possession in double overtime, a crucial offsides gave Oklahoma a first down, but despite the first down, Oklahoma still couldn’t find the end zone, as they settled for another short field goOH BLOCKED BY LORENZO CARTER GEORGIA HAS A CHANCE TO WIN WITH A FIELD GOAL.
Two plays later, Sony Michel broke through the line, and ran untouched, all the way to Atlanta, and a title berth, their first since 1980.
|3rd Down Eff||3-11||7-18|
|4th Down Eff||0-0||0-0|
|Yards Per Pass||7.2||8.0|
|Yards Per Rush||9.3||5.4|
|UGA – J. Fromm||20/29||210||7.2||2||0||—|
|OU– B. Mayfield||23/35||287||8.2||2||1||—|
|UGA – S. Michel||11||181||16.5||3||75|
|OU – R. Anderson||26||201||7.7||2||45|
|UGA – J. Wims||6||73||12.2||1||21|
|OU – M. Brown||8||14||14.3||1||45|
EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK
Rodney Anderson had a couple really nice big runs. He was a big difference maker in this game, and looked like the explosive playmaker Oklahoma needs him to be.
While Anderson was good, Georgia’s backs were even better. Chubb and Michel were absolutely as good as advertised, and combined for a huge number of chunk plays. Oklahoma’s defense often looked completely overpowered by the two backs, allowing both to run for more than ten yards a carry on average.
The story of the first half was Oklahoma’s offensive creativity. They looked significantly more prepared than Georgia’s defense, and exploited the 3-4 look with misdirection and deep passes, though the second half was a different story.
When things started to go wrong, Baker Mayfield seemed to tighten up, which was really surprising to me. He threw a really bad interception, and ultimately, looked far less comfortable than the quarterback on the other sideline. When Oklahoma needed him most, he crumbled, for the first time in his career. All credit to Georgia’s defense for some incredible second half adjustments.
Despite the struggles, and the great defense, Oklahoma’s offense was able to will their way to the win, and into the national title. Its games like this that differentiate good teams from great teams, and Oklahoma is a great team.
Just as we thought it may be, Oklahoma’s defense was crucial in this game. They stepped up when it was needed, and made a huge stop and forced a fumble in the fourth quarter, both of which could be considered the most important moments of the game.
For as high scoring as this game was, the defenses stepped up huge in overtime, and should be credited for the win. Despite a great performance from Oklahoma, the Bulldogs just had a little bit more.