The “other” quarterback emerged victorious Monday night in the College Football Playoff championship game.
Georgia’s Stetson Bennett, overshadowed by Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young of Alabama in the leadup to the national-title game, guided his team to a 33-18 victory in Indianapolis and captured Offensive Player of the Game honors.
With 10 minutes remaining and the Bulldogs down by five points, Bennett orchestrated consecutive scoring drives, punctuating both with touchdown passes. The former walk-on completed 17 of 26 passes for 224 yards with the two scores and no interceptions.
Bennett’s 40-yard TD connection with Adonai Mitchell on a free play put Georgia on top 19-18 with 8:09 to go, finishing a four-play, 75-yard drive.
Bennett subsequently guided Georgia 62 yards on seven plays, with his 15-yard pass to Brock Bowers making the score 26-18 with 3:33 to go. The Bulldogs then sealed their first national championship since 1980 on Kelee Ringo’s 79-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The winning drives came after Bennett lost a fumble that led to a go-ahead Alabama touchdown.
“I just knew there was going to be no way we were going to let a turnover like that stop us from winning a national championship,” Bennett said postgame on ESPN. “There was no way. I wasn’t going to let that happen. I wasn’t going to be the reason we lost.”
Asked why he remained at Georgia despite the program looking for his potential replacement, Bennett said he stayed “because I love this place, I love this team, I believe in myself. I think I’m the best quarterback. I just love everything about this place, and I wanted to win a national championship here.”
Bennett shed tears near the end of the game with the Bulldogs’ championship ensured.
“It just hit me,” he said. “I didn’t even watch Kelee score, I thought he went down right when he caught it because as soon as he caught it, I just teared up. Wasn’t planning on it. … Wow.”
Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine was selected the Defensive Player of the Game.