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Georgia Bulldogs win first college football national title since 1980, beat defending champ and longtime nemesis Alabama 33-18

College football championship & NFL playoffs
College football championship and the start of NFL playoffs 08:29

Indianapolis — Confetti rained down on Georgia. The Bulldogs fans chanted "Kir-by, Kir-by!"

Four decades of pent-up emotion were unleashed Monday night as the Bulldogs snapped a frustrating national championship drought by vanquishing their nemesis.

Stetson Bennett delivered the biggest throws of his storybook career and Georgia's defense sealed the sweetest victory in program history, beating Alabama 33-18 in the College Football Playoff for its first title in 41 years.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Georgia vs Alabama
Georgia Bulldogs players celebrate after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, 33-18. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

"I've never been around a group of players that really wanted it so bad and wouldn't be denied," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "I told the guys in the locker room, just take a picture of this."

Smart, a Bulldogs defensive back in the mid-1990s, returned to his alma mater in 2016 after helping Nick Saban build a dynasty as an assistant at Alabama.

Georgia has become an elite program under Smart, but hadn't been able to chase down its Southeastern Conference rival.

Until now.

"This was for all the glory, we took it," defensive tackle Jordan Davis said.

And they did it the way Alabama has broken their hearts so many times in recent years: coming from behind and finishing with a flourish.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Georgia vs Alabama
Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart celebrates after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bennett connected with Adonai Mitchell on a 40-yard touchdown to give No. 3 Georgia a 19-18 lead with 8:09 left and then hooked up with Brock Bowers for a 15-yard TD on a screen to put the Bulldogs up eight with 3:33 left.

The final blow came from Georgia's dominant defense: Kelee Ringo intercepted an underthrown deep ball down the sideline by Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.

"I just saw the ball in his hands and that was all she wrote," said safety Lewis Cine, the game's defensive MVP.

With just over a minute left, Ringo took off behind a convoy of blockers and went 79 yards, Smart chasing and yelling at him to go down so he wouldn't risk a fumble. The touchdown set off a wild celebration by the relieved Georgia fans who packed Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Bulldogs (14-1) hadn't won a national title since freshman Herschel Walker led them there in 1980. If simply snapping the drought wasn't good enough, doing it against No. 1 Alabama (13-2) made it even better.

"I cried, so pretty good," Bennett said when asked how it felt.

2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama
Christopher Smith, of the Georgia Bulldogs, intercepts a pass from the Alabama Crimson Tide during the College Football Playoff Championship held at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis. Jamie Schwaberow / Getty Images

Saban's Tide had won seven straight against the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs lost two SEC championship games, including one five weeks ago, and the 2018 CFP title game to Alabama under Smart.

"I told them we burned the boats. The only way home was through them," Smart said.

Mission accomplished.

"We played a heck of a game against a heck of a team for the first three quarters of the game," said Saban, who was denied his eight national title, seventh with Alabama in the last 13 years. "Nobody can take the SEC championship away from this team, the Cotton Bowl championship.

"We just didn't finish the way we needed to finish."

After more than 40 years, it was Georgia's time to finish.

"You put as much time as we do in this thing, blood, sweat, tears," Bennett said, "it means something."'s Tom Fornelli writes that the game showed, almost first and foremost, that "recruiting matters" — "at least, it does when you want to win national titles. Georgia winning its crown Monday didn't happen by accident. There's one thing Kirby Smart learned coaching under Saban that was more important than any schematic advantage: The most brilliant coach on the planet can't win a national title with good players. You need great ones. That's why recruiting has been a priority at Georgia since Smart took over.

"Smart's first season at Georgia in 2016 saw him bring in a class ranked sixth nationally in the 247Sports Composite. He's never hauled in a group ranked lower than fourth in the five classes since. The depth of the Dawgs' talent was evident throughout the night as Georgia's defense flew all over the field and stopped an Alabama offense few teams could even slow. Georgia is a team that is so talented, it somehow managed to win a national title using a former walk-on at quarterback."

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