Alabama falls to Georgia in 2022 National Championship

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Sports Editor

It finally happened. 

No. 1 Alabama lost to the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship, 33-18. This is Georgia’s first national title since 1980. 

We meet again

Just over a month ago, these two teams met in the 2021 SEC championship game in Atlanta, Georgia. The Bulldogs were the top-ranked team in the country. The Crimson Tide was No. 4 and fought their way to an overtime win over Auburn on Nov. 27, 2021. 

The general consensus was that Georgia would demolish Alabama and solidify themselves as the top dogs of college football. 

The result? The Crimson Tide defeated the Bulldogs 41-24 and earned their second straight conference title. Alabama jumped back to the No. 1 spot, Georgia fell to No. 2, and the two teams went their separate ways knowing they would meet again. 

Alabama defeated Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl and Georgia defeated Michigan in the Orange Bowl. The rematch was set. The final round between these two teams would take place in Lucas Oil Stadium. 

It’s all about the defense

Few expected the same kind of score this time around. Two of the best defenses in the country were playing against each other again, but both teams had different goals. In winning, Alabama would solidify the dynasty with a staggering 19th national title. Georgia’s goal was to prove just how good they were to everyone that still doubted them. 

The Bulldogs decisively defeated the Michigan Wolverines 34-11. No one had any reason to doubt the Georgia defense, but Georgia remembered that Dec. 4 game. 

“[The SEC championship game], it stung a little bit,” Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis said. 

The Bulldogs showed the utmost confidence in their defense early on. Georgia won the toss and elected to defer to start the game. The defense was faced with the tall task of keeping the Crimson Tide out of the end zone. 

Unlike in the SEC championship game, the Bulldogs got to Alabama quarterback Bryce Young early and often. On Alabama’s first possession of the game, Davis forced Young to fumble. Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean recovered the ball and took it to the house for the score. 

Although the call was overturned — and Alabama kicker Will Reichard eventually put Alabama on the board — that play set the tone for the game. 

The Crimson Tide was not going to be able to pick apart the Georgia defense this time around. 

Every yard would be earned the hard way. Every catch would be contested. Young would have pressure in his face. Instead of Alabama dictating play, it would be Georgia. 

“I think that they switched up some stuff, had different tendencies,” Young said. “I have to process that faster, just make the right play for the team better than I did tonight.” 

Alabama’s defense understood the challenge and stepped up to the plate. The Crimson Tide forced a three-and-out from Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett and the Georgia offense. 

These defenses fought back and forth, never letting the opposing offense into the end zone. The first five scores of the game were all field goals. Alabama was up 9-6 at halftime, but it felt like Georgia was inching closer to a big drive. 

Can’t finish the job

Alabama had several tough, hard-fought and nail-biting battles throughout the season. Yet somehow, someway, Alabama always figured out a way to win. They did against Florida, LSU, Auburn and Arkansas. 

It was only a matter of time before Alabama pulled some magic out of the bag, right? Not so fast. 

Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams injured his knee early in the second quarter of the game. The Crimson Tide were now without their two top receivers. Young players like Agiye Hall, Ja’Corey Brooks and Traeshon Holden had to find a way to perform in the biggest game of their careers so far. 

The Bulldogs knew the opportunity that lay in front of them and like dogs do, pounced. 

Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith intercepted Young early in the third quarter. The pro-Georgia crowd was electric in Lucas Oil Stadium. This was Georgia’s chance to snatch the momentum away from the Crimson Tide. 

Except it didn’t happen. 

The Alabama defense held Georgia to another three-and-out. The Bulldogs couldn’t capitalize on a critical turnover.  Alabama responded with an almost-eight-minute march down the field. 

The Crimson Tide made it down to Georgia’s 30-yard line. A drop by Hall on third and 11 proved detrimental. Reichard’s field goal attempt was blocked by defensive lineman Jalen Carter and recovered by defensive back Lewis Cine. 

This time, Georgia capitalized. 

Running back Zamir White set the eventual Georgia touchdown with a 67-yard run to Alabama’s 13-yard line. Three plays later, the Bulldogs finally crossed into the end zone. Georgia took a 13-9 lead with about 16 minutes left in the game. 

This movie has been seen before. Georgia always blows a lead against Georgia. 

True to form, Young found Alabama tight end Cameron Latu in the end zone for the score. The Crimson Tide was up 18-13 with just over 10 minutes left in the game. 

Yet again, Georgia answered. The score was 19-18 in favor of Georgia. This went from a true defensive tussle to an offensive chess match in a matter of a couple quarters. Normally, the Crimson Tide find a way to pull it off. 

It wouldn’t be so tonight. 

After not finding the end zone for the first two quarters, Georgia found it twice in the span of five minutes. A 15-yard touchdown reception by Georgia tight end Brock Bowers and a pick six by Cine put the Bulldogs up 33-18 with under a minute to go. 

The Georgia fans in attendance and watching the broadcast could sense the end of the drought was near. The “UGA” chants grew louder. The all-red shakers shook more intensely. 

Soon enough, Georgia’s third sack of the night ended the 41-year drought. 

“Just so proud of our players,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “Somebody told me you’re not playing for the 41 years that we haven’t won a national title, you’re playing for the men in the room, and that really touched me, because that’s what it was all about was those guys in the room.”

Saban was disappointed that his team couldn’t finish the job in Indianapolis but remained proud of his players. 

“Nobody can take the SEC Championship away from this team, the Cotton Bowl championship,” Saban said. “I’m extremely proud of everything that this team had to overcome to get to this position to have an opportunity to win the national championship.”