It’s easier to tell an athlete to have a short memory, to forget that godawful last play or that embarrassing last loss, than it is to actually do it. Especially when there’s a national championship on the line.
Unless you’re Stetson Bennett IV, that is.
Bennett shook off a fumble at the start of the fourth quarter that could have doomed Georgia’s chances for its first national title in 40-plus years, uncorking a 40-yard TD pass on the very next drive. He threw for another touchdown for good measure on Georgia’s drive after that, and Kelee Ringo had a pick-six to finish off a 33-18 victory over Alabama on Monday night.
It was a spectacular end to a game that was a dud for much of the first three quarters.
College football’s showcase has gotten stale, with the same few teams showing up and the games ending in blowouts the last few years. This was supposed to be better, a matchup of the two best teams from the best conference.
For Georgia, it was a chance to prove that embarrassment in the SEC Championship game last month was a one-off, not a true reflection of its talent and potential. The Crimson Tide had steamrolled Bennett and the Bulldogs, making them look one dimensional.
Early in the fourth quarter, it looked as if the Bulldogs were headed for a repeat. With 11:35 left, Bennett was sacked and fumbled the ball. Alabama recovered it at the Georgia 16, and scored four plays later.
It was a colossal shift, and Alabama being Alabama, one that seemed tilted its way.
But rather than Bennett’s brilliance all season being the mirage, it was his unsettled performance in the SEC title game that was.
Showing his confidence had not been broken, he threw an 18-yard completion on the first play of Georgia’s next drive. Three plays later, he found a streaking Adonai Mitchell for the 40-yard score.
Bennett and the Bulldogs never looked back.