ATLANTA — No. 1 Georgia faced a losing streak for most of the 2022 Peach Bowl, coming off a stunning 42-41 victory over No. 4 Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals. The win sends the defending champion Bulldogs to the CFP National Championship, where they will face No. 3 TCU on Monday, Jan. 9 in Inglewood, California.
Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles missed a 50-yard field goal attempt after a heroic forward drive from Georgia put the Buckeyes in position for a potential game-winning field goal in the final minute.
The Buckeyes led 38-24 early in the fourth quarter, and with a chance to regain a two-possession lead with less than 4 minutes left, the Bulldogs defense came up with a big stand that pushed Ohio State to a field goal. -35 with 2:43 left.
From there, Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV led a drive for the ages to keep the Dawgs undefeated. Bennett hit Adonai Mitchell for a 10-yard touchdown with 54 seconds left to give Georgia its first lead since the second quarter.
Ohio State had two timeouts left and the field goal was enough to get into range. Despite navigating the fourth quarter without leading wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., he exited late in the third quarter following a big hit in the end zone.
The Buckeyes scored more goals against the Dawgs than any other team this season, but ultimately came up short in a valiant attempt at redemption following an embarrassing loss to Michigan to end the regular season.
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Stroud outplayed Bennett all night and was absolutely spectacular with his arm and legs for the Buckeyes. But when it mattered most, Bennett delivered another storybook moment for his storied career. The former walk-on, who famously took a detour through junior college before returning for a second stint with the Bulldogs, delivered the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in CFP history.
The Bulldogs outscored Ohio State 18-3 over the final 15 minutes, with Bennett completing 10 of 12 passes in the frame. He found Arian Smith wide open for a 76-yard touchdown to make it 38-35 midway through the quarter, then finished with a strike to Mitchell. Bennett finished 23 of 34 for 398 yards with three touchdowns, an interception and a rushing touchdown while earning the game’s MVP honors.
Great stance when it matters most
Georgia is the country’s no. 2 entered with a scoring defense allowing just 12.8 points per game — but the Buckeyes scored 28 in the first half alone. However, when the chips were down, Georgia came up with some key stops. Oddly enough, a tip-in from Georgia coach Kirby Smart with 8:58 left helped save the game for the Dawgs.
Facing fourth-and-1 at their own 34-yard line, the Buckeyes line up to punt before executing a successful fake. However, as the play unfolded, it became clear that Smart had called a timeout just before the snap. The Georgia staff sniffed out the fake in time, and the Buckeyes actually elected to punt after the timeout.
Bennett’s 76-yard strike to Smith on the first play of UGA’s next drive. On Ohio State’s next possession, the Buckeyes faced second-and-5 at the Georgia 18-yard line and were moving the football well with a chance to take a 45-35 lead. The Bulldogs dialed up the pressure and bowled Strode for 12 runs. Ohio State settled for a field goal, which opened the door for Bennett and the Georgia offense.
Major injuries for both teams
Ohio State tight end Kate Stover left the game and was taken to a local hospital with back spasms after making one catch for 7 yards. The senior entered with 35 receptions for 399 yards and five touchdowns. Late in the third quarter, Harrison Jr. took a big hit in the back of the end zone and needed medical attention on the field. He did not return after collecting five catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Stroud’s absence hampered the Buckeyes as they tried to set up their team for the game-winning score in the final minute.
Although Georgia returned Mitchell to the game after missing most of the season due to injury, the Bulldogs quickly lost another top target when Darnell Washington left in the first half and did not return. The hulking junior tight end made one catch for 9 yards before he took off. His stature will be huge for the College Playoff National Championship, as will that of wide receiver Ladd McConkey, who clearly limped through the game with a knee injury.