Georgia Ends National Championship Drought


Mark Rebilas

Stetson Bennett celebrates after winning National Championship.

Stetson Bennett couldn’t contain his emotion as Georgia Bulldogs’ cornerback Kelee Ringo intercepted an errant Alabama pass, clinching the program’s first National Championship in forty-one years over the number one seed Alabama. As Bennett broke down in tears on the sideline upon realizing his childhood dream, fans in Athens, GA and across the country celebrated the end of their championship drought. However, Georgia’s and Bennett’s road to the pinnacle of college football was anything but easy.

Bennett walked on at Georgia in 2017 as a two-star high school recruit without a scholarship. After failing to win the starting job, Bennett transferred to Jones College, a junior college, prior to his sophomore year in order to refine his craft. Bennett spent one year at Jones before returning to Georgia as an improved player, even earning a few starts during his junior year. Despite this, his time would not come until his senior year, when starting quarterback JT Daniels was injured. Bennett took over and dominated in his first game, throwing five touchdowns to tie the Georgia program’s record. As the season progressed, Bennett had his ups and downs. Yet, when the spotlight was brightest, he delivered. In the National Championship game on January 10, where he was named Offensive Player of the Game, Bennett threw for two touchdowns and 224 yards with no interceptions. After a largely lackluster first half performance, Bennett caught fire in the fourth quarter, completing all four of his passes, including two touchdowns. After the game, he said, “I can’t describe the feeling. I tried not to put the Bulldog Nation on my shoulders because I can’t carry that weight… I just saw [Kelee] catch the pick – it just lifted off my shoulders. I just started crying. The emotions just came over me.”

The National Championship itself was a tale of two halves. No touchdowns were scored in the first half, and at halftime Alabama led only 9 to 6. Georgia would go on to score 27 points in the second half. Alabama’s only touchdown came following a fumble recovery when Bennett’s arm was hit as he attempted to get rid of the ball. Appearing to be an incomplete forward pass, Alabama safety Brian Branch grabbed the ball casually, seemingly out of bounds. However, the officials ruled  that not only did Bennett fumble, but Branch recovered in bounds. A lengthy video replay ensued, and the call on the field was upheld. Despite the setback, Georgia quickly struck back, passing for two touchdowns and stealing the game away from the Crimson Tide’s grasp. 

Though Bennett isn’t projected to be an early-round NFL draft selection, the National Championship game was filled with many other players on both the Alabama and Georgia teams who look to continue their professional football careers beyond college. Georgia’s linebacker Nakobe Dean and cornerback Lewis Cine are likely first round draft picks. Unfortunately, Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams, who tore his ACL during the game, may see his first-round draft stock take a hit as he recovers from a significant knee injury. Meanwhile, Bennett has announced his return to Georgia for his final year of eligibility. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young will also be returning to the Crimson Tide as he is not yet eligible to be drafted as a sophomore. 

Whether in the NFL, or in the next College Football season, the Championship-winning Georgia Bulldogs enter 2022 with the same, if not higher expectations.