Two words, one name: Stetson Bennett.
The Georgia Bulldogs quarterback tallied six touchdowns, leading the team to a monstrous 65-7 national championship victory over the TCU Horned Frogs. The outcome cements Georgia into history books as only the fourth team to repeat as champions in the modern college football era.
Before the first kickoff, Georgia coach Kirby Smart said aggression would be the key to a preferable result. Well, the dogs’ defense came out of the cage barking. Led by Jalen Carter, the potential number-one pick in the 2023 NFL draft, Georgia forced TCU to a three-and-out on the opening drive. TCUs offense, led by quarterback Max Duggan seemed perturbed; however, the TCU faithful, dripped in purple stitches, continued their auspicious praise. Auspicious quickly dissolved into ambivalence as Stetson “The Mailman” Bennett delivered Georgia the game’s first score in less than three minutes of possession with a 21-yard rushing touchdown.
An overzealous TCU defense with a 3-3-5 defensive scheme catered to pressing the run would give up 17 first-quarter points. Three of those 17 points contributing to a 10-0 lead were attributable to a fumble recovery by defensive back Javon Bullard. Bullard’s moment on the grandest stage of them all was cut short by a shoulder injury which ruled him out of the second half. Where there is a trial, triumph shall come, and the Georgia native did enough in one half to capture the defensive MVP. Bullard had two interceptions on the year. Both occurred in the first half of the national championship game.
However, determination was the bastion TCU coach Sonny Dykes and his team stood on the entire season. Heisman finalist Max Duggan’s rushing touchdown in the first quarter would keep the deficit to 10 going into the second quarter.
TCU star running back Kendre Miller, who rushed for nearly 1,400 yards this season, was injured with an MCL sprain he suffered in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl against Michigan. Duggan, who rushed for over 400 yards going into the championship game, and backup running back Emari Demercado, would have to carry the weight to hamper further deficit.
The burden was too much. The horned frogs started the second quarter akin to how they opened the game, three and out. Bennett would eat the bone off his defense’s plate, and Georgia posted another touchdown.
Then another. Then another.
Howard quarterback and 2022 MEAC champion, Quinton Williams, admits to astonishment.
“I did think it would be a great first half played by both teams, and eventually Georgia would run away at the end,” he said. “Therefore, I was surprised by the final score and shocked by how lopsided this game became so early on.”
Freshman Howard student Abel Yonas labeled TCUs performance an “embarrassment.”
Scoring on every possession, the Georgia Bulldogs strutted their cleats into the end zone five times in the first half, placing the margin 38-7.
TCU had the opportunity to repeat the history they made in the 2016 Alamo Bowl when they recovered from 31 down at halftime to defeat the Oregon Ducks 47-41 in a triple-overtime masterpiece. However, Bennett, defense, and co. clasped the paintbrush in their hand.
The Georgia defense would hold star TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston to three receiving yards and made their opponent’s offense seem frivolous by holding them to 188 total yards in the entire game. In the College Football Playoff semi-final, TCU had 488 yards in their upset win over Michigan.
As the defense persisted in prepotency, Bennett’s arm continued its incendiary deliveries in the second half. Most of them landed in the hands of sophomore tight end Brock Bowers and sophomore receiver Ladd McConkey. Bowers was a tower in the open field, completing all seven targets for 152 yards and a touchdown. McConkey, who unashamedly admits to growing up a Tennessee Volunteers fan, volunteered his service and completed 5 of his six targets for 88 yards and two touchdowns in his first game since Dec. 3. The two sophomores accounted for the team’s two third-quarter touchdowns.
The fourth quarter would elicit tears and thank you’s from Georgia players, staff, and fans.
Bennett entered Georgia as a walk-on quarterback in 2017 to fulfill a dream of playing at his parents’ alma mater. Nearly six years later, on a rainy Monday night in Los Angeles with 13-and-a-half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Stetson Bennett IV exited Georgia as a two-time national champion. The walk-on walked off as an immutable legend in college football, earning most outstanding player in all of his four college football playoff appearances, tying Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow for most touchdowns in a national championship game, and becoming the first quarterback to win back-to-back championships in the College Football Playoff era.
“I’ll remember that (curtain call) for the rest of my life,” Bennett told reporters after the game.
Kirby Smart ensured Bennett walked off alone and supplemented his appreciation for Bennett after the game when he coined him the “greatest dog in history.”
Georgia would tack on 13 more points in the fourth quarter after Bennett’s curtain call. Destined to hold down the fort in the coming years, sophomore quarterback Carson Beck, and true freshman running back Brian Robinson, who scored two touchdowns, assure the bulldog faithful that the program is in good hands.
As the clock hit 0:00, red and white confetti showered upon a disappointed Max Duggan. At the same time, the chapel bell in Athens, Georgia, competed with roaring shouts from Inglewood, California, as multiple decks of Georgia fans celebrated a perfect season.
Though on the losing end, coach Dykes remained committed to TCU football’s future.
“We have to regroup and go from there,” Dykes said.
When asked about Duggan, Dykes said he was “proud of him.”
Dykes has every right to be proud of his senior stud quarterback. He started the season as the second-string quarterback. He completed the season as a Heisman finalist. Duggan, furthermore, led a team with 200-1 odds to make the national championship before the season started. A victory would have granted the Big 12 conference their first national championship since the 2005-2006 season.
Georgia’s victory bestows the Southeastern Conference their 30th national championship. Georgia credits it to the mamba mentality. Smart revealed that he showed his squad a Redeem Team documentary clip of Kobe Bryant plowing through his club teammate, Pau Gasol, at the 2008 Olympics.
Smart used the footage to implant within the players’ brains that “we only have one more time to hunt.” Post-game he expressed his satisfaction and boldly said, “we hunted tonight.”
Smart commends the posture with which his team hunts.
“We don’t run from work, and we don’t have entitlement.”
Georgia will have work ahead of them if they wish to three-peat next year. They enter the off-season as favorites to win the 2023 College Football Playoff national championship. Maybe they have another mystery mailman waiting to deliver history on a national championship platter.
Copy edited by Nhandi Long-Shipman