Oklahoma has had a history of underperforming in National Championship and Playoff games. The Sooners had lost their last five such games in a row. This one, however, just felt different. And it started out differently as well. The offense looked unstoppable and the defense was getting just enough stops to allow for a 17-point halftime lead.
Bulldogs Beat Sooners in All Too Familiar Fashion
Or, so one would think. Many times games are won and lost through the little things. A botched squib kick paved the way for a 55-yard field goal which gave Georgia the momentum that it carried to a dominating second half in a double-overtime Rose Bowl victory, 54-48.
Sooners Start Strong
As has been their custom all year, Oklahoma started incredibly fast in the Rose Bowl. In the Sooners’ first three possessions, Oklahoma scored 21 points in just 17 plays. Baker Mayfield connected on seven of his first eight passes including a 13-yard scoring strike to Marquise Brown. Meanwhile, on the ground, Rodney Anderson ran for two scores of his own to build an early 21-7 lead for the Sooners.
The last five minutes and the first five minutes of a half are always crucial to securing victory. The Sooners appeared to end the first half on a fantastic note. Oklahoma scored on a trick play with six seconds remaining in the half. Freshman receiver CeeDee Lamb connected on a reverse pass to Baker Mayfield to give the Sooners a commanding 31-14 lead. That would prove to be a great momentum builder to take into the second half. Or, that’s what everyone thought.
The Kick That Changed Everything
Momentum is a crazy thing in sports, especially in big games. With Oklahoma off to a commanding 17-point lead and in position to secure the second half kickoff, the momentum was wearing crimson and cream. But, then the kickoff happened. To drain the remaining seconds off the clock, Lincoln Riley called for a squib kick. In this situation, a squib kick is a correct call to make every time. However, the execution of this play was poor and the kickoff only went for 12 yards.
Georgia was in a position to take advantage of this mistake by Sooner kicker Austin Seibert. Jake Fromm connected with Terry Godwin to put the Bulldogs into field goal range with one second remaining. Rodrigo Blankenship nailed a 55-yard field goal as the first half concluded to give the Bulldogs renewed life and some momentum. Although it may be true that the way the first half was going a 17-point lead versus a 14-point lead seemed inconsequential, in the end it made all of the difference in the world.
Georgia Comes Out Punching
One of the true marks of a championship football team is how you respond to adversity. The Bulldogs came out in the third quarter and delivered some haymakers to Oklahoma. 21 unanswered second-half points put Oklahoma in a position that was all too familiar. The Sooners had yet again squandered a big lead, but this time on the biggest stage.
The running game of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb asserted itself in a big way. On the Bulldogs first offensive possession, Chubb ran 50 yards for a Georgia touchdown. Then, on a 3rd and 7, Michel took a wildcat snap 38 yards for a score to tie it up. Finally, after a Mayfield interception, Fromm hit Javon Wims from four yards out to give Georgia its first lead of the contest at 38-31.
Oklahoma Gets Up From the Mat
Everything that the Sooners worked hard to get in this game vanished. After a 17-point advantage, Oklahoma found itself down by seven in the fourth quarter. However, the Sooners, champions as well, found a way to respond. After a touchdown drive, Oklahoma tied the game with 8:47 remaining in the game.
The defense struggled all night, but put themselves in a position to make a play. Steven Parker was able to return a Michel fumble 46 yards for a Sooner defensive touchdown. All of that momentum that Oklahoma lost came back to the Oklahoma sideline as the lead changed hands once again.
The Bulldogs Finish the Job
After taking the lead, Oklahoma was able to force a three and out. The Sooners looked to be in prime position now. They had possession of the ball and up by seven points with five minutes remaining in the game. Oklahoma would need two first downs to put Georgia on the brink and three would put the game away. However, Oklahoma would only run three plays and be forced to punt with 3:32 to go. Punting is not always a bad thing, but it is when you only punt the ball 29 yards. Georgia needed 59 yards to tie the score.
Tie the score is exactly what Georgia did. Chubb ran in from two yards away to tie the game at 45. Mayfield and company still had 55 seconds and three timeouts to work with. After four plays, Oklahoma would be forced to punt and Georgia elected to take the game to overtime.
After the teams traded field goals, Georgia’s special teams changed the game in the second overtime. Seibert’s 27-yard field goal was blocked and Georgia had the upper hand with a chance to win the game in the second possession. The wildcat again was the Sooner’s ultimate demise. Michel took the direct snap and ran 27 yards for the score and the game winner.
The Bulldogs advance to the SEC championship/National Championship game next week against Alabama. Georgia will have the opportunity to enjoy the luxury of proximity playing for a national championship in Atlanta. This has all the makings of a defensive struggle with two powerhouse defenses.
The Sooners have to face the off-season with a terrible taste in their mouth. This one is the one that got away. Oklahoma didn’t make enough championship plays. Whether you want to look at conservative play calling down the stretch, lack of making enough stops on defense, or not enough solid special teams play there will be a lot of questions to take into the spring. What if’s and coaching staff uncertainty are sure to be the hot discussion topics to come.
Unfortunately for Oklahoma fans, it’s a familiar refrain for this time of year.
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