History was made at the Rose Bowl Monday as Georgia tailback Sony Michel ran around the left side from 27 yards out to give the Bulldogs a 54-48 double overtime victory over Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff Semifinal matchup.
The Rose Bowl, perhaps the most picturesque venues in all of sports, was home to its first playoff ever in its 104th edition, and it was a beauty.
Georgia will now prepare to play Alabama for the national championship next Monday in Atlanta after the Crimson Tide rolled past Clemson 24-6 in the other semifinal.
Georgia and Oklahoma traded field goals in the first overtime as Rodrigo Blankenship put the Bulldogs up 48-45 on a 38-yarder before the Sooners Austin Seibert booted one from 33 yards out to knot the score.
In the second overtime, Seibert’s 27-yard field goal try was blocked, setting the stage for Michel to find the opening the Bulldogs were looking for in the explosive showdown that resulted in more than 100 points on the board and 1,000-plus yards from the two offenses.
Outside of a key fourth quarter fumble which No. 2 Oklahoma returned for a touchdown, Michel shined in the latest “Granddaddy of them all,” rushing for 181 yards and three touchdowns to improve the No. 3 Bulldogs to 13-1 on the season. Nick Chubb contributed another 146 yards and two more Georgia touchdowns while carrying the ball 14 times. Bulldog freshman quarterback Jake Fromm also had a solid game, hitting on 20 of 29 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
Kirby Smart, coach of Georgia, praised Oklahoma after knocking of the Sooners, saying, “Our kids kept chopping wood and fighting. We stunk it up on defense giving up 48 points, but we played with passion and energy. We found out we have a pretty good character on this team.”
On the other side, it was a crushing blow for Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley and his favored team, which finished the year 12-2. “We knew it was going to come down to one play and it did,” he said. “I’m proud as hell to be their coach. Give Georgia credit. They are a very good team. They made one more play than we did. I always felt like we’d win the game until that last snap.”
Mayfield, who had a stellar career at Oklahoma and is a certain first round pick in April’s NFL draft, showed why he was Heisman worthy as the Sooners’ quarterback sensation guided his club to a 31-17 halftime lead after completing 13 of 18 passes for 200 yards and one TD. He finished the night hitting on 23 of 35 for 287 yards and a pair of scores.
With Mayfield at the controls, Oklahoma was humming on offense in the first half.
The Sooners got on the board first as Mayfield directed an 80-yard drive in just six plays, hooking up with Marquise Brown on a 13-yard touchdown at the 11:35 mark of the first quarter. Brown was the top receiver in the game, making eight catches for 114 yards.
Georgia wasted little time tying it up, taking the ball 75 yards in six plays on its next possession as Bulldog quarterback Jake Fromm found Michel from 13 yards out to make it 7-7.
The next time it had the ball, Oklahoma went 75 yards in only six plays, consuming a mere 1:31 off the clock as Rodney Anderson ran the final nine yards for the score, pushing the Sooners out in front 14-7.
After Georgia missed a 48-yard field goal near the end of the first quarter, the Sooners were back at it early in the second period, extending their lead to 21-7 on a 41-yard run by Anderson. It took Oklahoma only five plays to go 69 yards and climb out to a 14-point advantage.
Georgia answered 12 seconds later as Michel scored on a 75-yard run to cut the Sooner lead to 21-14. The next time it had the ball, however, Oklahoma was back on the board on a 54-yard field goal with 9:12 left before the half, giving the Sooners a 24-14 lead.
Oklahoma went to its bag of tricks to go up 31-14 as the ball moved around in the backfield before Mayfield hauled in a 2-yard TD pass from CeeDee Lamb in the right corner of the end zone with 3:22 left in the second quarter.
Surprising, the Sooners made squib kick after the score as Georgia recovered, putting itself into position for Rodrigo Blankenship to boot a 55-yard field goal as time expired in the second period, cutting the Sooners lead to 31-17. “Just try not to kick it and hit somebody,” explained Riley about Seibert’s short boot. “You know, he just hit a bad kick, so we just want to squib it down there and not give them a chance for a return and we just didn’t execute well.”
It was the shot in the arm Georgia was looking as the Bulldogs’ sideline erupted knowing the three points had given them some much-needed momentum.
Georgia got a big spark at the 12:25 mark of the third quarter when Nick Chubb ran 50 yards for a touchdown, closing the Sooners’ lead to 31-24. The score ignited the Bulldogs defense, which stopped Oklahoma deep in its own territory on three downs, forcing Oklahoma to punt.
Oklahoma brought pressure and got to Mayfield, dragging the prized quarterback down three times near the end of the third period. It took the Bulldogs only two minutes and 35 seconds to tie it at 31 apiece as Michel finished off a 6-play, 71-yard drive on a 38 yard run with 41 seconds left in the third quarter.
The shift in momentum continued to swing Georgia’s way as Dominic Sanders picked off a Mayfield pass on the first play of the fourth quarter, taking it down to the Oklahoma four. Two plays later, Fromm hit Javon Wims for the score with 13:57 to go in the game as the Bulldogs climbed out to a 38-31 lead, scoring 24 unanswered points.
Oklahoma locked it at 38-38, going 88 yards in six plays, covering the distance in just 1:56 as Mayfield found Dimetri Flowers in the middle of the end zone on an 11-yard scoring pass. Setting it up was a huge 38-yard catch by Lamb down the left side.
With 6:52 to play in the contest, the Sooners’ Steven Parker picked up the Michele fumble caused by Caleb Kelly and ran down the right sideline for a 46-yard TD, giving Oklahoma a 45-38 cushion.
On their next possession, Georgia went three and out, giving the ball back to Oklahoma, which looked to put the game away with a score. That didn’t happen, setting the stage for the Bulldogs to tie it again, starting from their own 41. It took the Bulldogs just 7 plays go 59 yards as Chubb ran around the right side for the final two, making it 45-45.
With 55 seconds on the clock, Mayfield took over the Sooners’ offense, hoping to put them into position for a field goal. Georgia held, forced a punt and put the game on ice before it ended in dramatic double overtime fashion.