Videos by OutKick
Georgia was clinging to a 19-18 lead midway through the fourth quarter, and Alabama had the ball when Georgia senior offensive tackle Jamaree Salyer went up to coach Kirby Smart.
“I was like, ‘Put it on us. We want to win this game,'” Salyer said after No. 3 Georgia beat No. 1 Alabama 33-18 to win its first national championship since 1980 Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“That moment before the drive, we understood we had to take this game over as an offensive line unit,” said Salyer, a three-year starter from Atlanta. “We had a conversation on the sideline before that drive. ‘It’s time for us to take the game over.'”
And dog gone it, did they!
The Bulldogs drove through the heart of Alabama’s defense on a 62-yard touchdown drive in seven plays over three minutes and 37 seconds to take a 26-18 lead with 3:33 to go, and it was over.
Georgia (14-1) basically bled out the Crimson Tide until it was weak and pink, as they ran on six of the seven plays for 32 yards.
Georgia tailback Zamir White carried four times for 26 yards on the drive. After tailback James Cook gained four on first down, White popped for seven, then five, then seven again and seven again to the Alabama 17-yard line.
“We were really excited,” Salyer said. “We wanted to run all the time off the clock. That’s what we want to be known as – a team, an offensive line that can finish the game. And we did.”
White carried or pushed several Alabama tacklers on his last run.
“I was like, ‘Go, run! Please run. Just make it to the end zone,'” Salyer said.
“My mindset was just to keep on grinding and just keep on chopping,” White said. “Just trusting my linemen. That’s it really. I feel like we just stayed to grinding.”
And cleat marks were left all over an Alabama defense that had held the Bulldogs to 26 yards rushing on 13 carries in the first half and forced three-and-out punts in forging a 9-6 lead.
“I wouldn’t say anything changed,” Alabama defensive tackle DJ Dale said. “They didn’t do really anything different.”
Other than blowing Alabama off the line of scrimmage.
“It was just on us stopping the run,” Dale said.
Quarterback Stetson Bennett’s only pass of the drive was a touchdown — 15 yards to tight end Brock Bowers for the 26-18 lead after the extra point.
“You saw our offensive line,” Bennett said. “We mashed on them on that drive. We played Georgia football that drive. Running backs ran hard. We weren’t going to be stopped on that drive, I don’t think. It felt great handing the ball off and watching those dudes lead us down the field.”
Georgia defensive back Kelee Ringo put the game on ice with a 79-yard interception return with 54 seconds left for the 33-18 final.
Georgia finished with 140 rushing yards on 30 carries — a 4.7-yard average per rush. Meanwhile, its defense held Alabama’s running attack to 30 yards on 28 carries — a 1.1-yard average.
White had just 22 yards on five carries in the first half before leading all rushers with 84 on 13 rushes.
“I think the offensive line is kind of a rhythm game,” Salyer said. “It’s five guys working cohesively to make one thing happen. It took a minute for us to settle in.”
Then Georgia’s first national championship in more than four decades sunk in.
“I mean, just watching that clock hit triple zeroes,” Salyer said. “Just all the emotions. Part of me wanted to cry. Part of me wanted to get excited. Part of me wanted to feel a lot of different things. ‘Wow, we’re national champions.’ That’s what guys kept saying. ‘Wow, we just won a national championship for the first time in 40-something years.’ I can’t really compare anything to that feeling.”