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Georgia Football

Legge's Thoughts: Kirby's Dawgs Snatch the Life Out of Ohio State

January 1, 2023

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ATLANTA - The legendary voice of the Georgia Bulldogs, Larry Munson, was probably suffering just the way so many Georgia fans love to late last night. Poor Larry could have not have scripted a tortured night filled with frustration and ending with bliss anymore. 

Certainly Vince Dooley must have been smiling that smooth grin last night, too. Mark Richt was there live to witness this madness. Kirby Smart had to live through it live. 


Midnight finally struck for Ohio State - a team that pushed these No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs to the limit all game long until a new year was born. 

Georgia was not the better team for the first 50 minutes of the gamer. Ohio State had a quarterback the likes of which Georgia has only seen a few times - and which it has usually lost to. 

It did not look like Georgia was going to win. Ohio State deserved to win. 

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But Georgia snatched the life out of the Buckeyes on the biggest stage of the college football season so far. Kirby’s Dawgs fought, and fought and fought more. It is hard to put into words the comeback Georgia pulled on New Year’s Eve. 

You don’t beat Alabama by beating them. You beat them by beating them twice - and being totally certain that the dirt on the grave is totally firm. We don’t need any Undertakers waking up like this is WrestleMania.

Ohio State didn’t beat Georgia twice. You have to beat these Dawgs twice - literally (ask Alabama about that from 2021) and figuratively (Ohio State tonight; Cincinnati in 2020). 

Folks I talked to behind the scenes were speechless. Kirby wasn’t. He was pissed Stetson Bennett didn’t run the clock more on the final drive of the game. Kirby was right. But it was Stetson Season once more. 

I think I understand now why Bennett plays so well at the Dome. Its close to his future home at the College Football Hall of Fame just down the street. Bennett didn’t outplay Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, but he matched him. 

Those two ball spinners were sick. 

But Bennett also has a coach who is willing to go for the jugular at any given moment. After Saturday night I can’t say that about Ryan Day. His play calling at the end of Saturday night cost Ohio State the game. 

You should never settle for a 50-yard field goal. The Buckeyes were lucky to have the attempt. Only Stroud’s amazing movement allowed Ohio State to have a chance to win. 

Kirby’s timeout was legendary - folks will be talking about that for decades. 

“The thing about Kirby that’s so special is he has the ability to anticipate things very well,” one UGA assistant told me on background this week. “He can just see things.”

He saw that, and it was a game changer. 

The fight was one of the greatest if not the greatest football games these two programs have ever played. I was at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando in 1993. That won rocked and rolled all game. This was another level of madness. 

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This was Rose Bowl-level insanity. This was 2017 Bama-Georgia in its climax. 

I sat in the same spot - in that corner away from the opening at the Dome - the entire fourth quarter. The plays were coming one after towards me and the Redcoats. It was the same end zone Alabama scored one of the most unlikely touchdowns of all time - Tua to DeVonta Smith. 

This time Ohio State was stretching for a game-winning FG kick. The building has seen some wonderful closes to games, but in its short history those two closes have to be at the top of the list of magic in Atlanta. 

The kick, you knew immediately, was off. I was shooting with a wide-angle lens - I could only see so much. But what I heard was the same shriek from the crowd as I did that night. That’s the sound of finality. That’s the sound of winning or losing. That’s the sound you want to hear your side screaming. 

Georgia’s assistant coaches who had been in the box all night came running in a full spring through the corridor minutes later. Todd Monken paced around during the trophy ceremony not knowing what to do. 

It looked like he was in shock. You could understand the reason why. I think the college football world is.  

This is was sports should be - two titans swinging at one another the entire contest. One haymaker was followed by another. I can not stress enough how great a competition this game was.

Ohio State had been doubted after the loss to Michigan with good reason. All week Ryan Day’s program seemed paranoid. Saturday night Georgia could not seem to get out of its own way - or in the way of Marvin Harrison, Jr. 

Then Stroud. 

Then Stetson. 

The Dome rocked and rolled all night. If you have a heart condition the Dome wasn’t where you should have been. At the end of the night the 30-something percent Buckeye fans were heartbroken. The 60-something percent Georgia fans were checking their own pulses (after a few drinks, of course). 

Stetson’s seeming ability to be fearless staring down the barrel of a gun is something to behold. Some players in sports do this, but he seems to do it when it matters most. It is special. He is special. He is one of a kind. 

He is Georgia. 

His throw to Brock Bowers in the fourth quarter was some sort of sidearm thingy I’ve only seen Matthew Stafford do live before. I don’t remember anyone else doing that. 

But fearlessness can lead to mistakes, too. And Bennett made one of those, which helped Ohio State grab huge momentum in the first half. You are going to get QBs who make mistakes when they are asked to do as much as Stroud and Bennett were asked to do last night. 

And when it came down to it Ohio State needed to run and couldn’t rely on anyone other than Stroud to do that. As it turns out Ohio State asked him to do too much - one drive too many. The guy is amazing. 

What does it all mean? We nearly saw two favorites in the CFP semifinals lose. We nearly saw two non-conference champions play for it all. We saw two of the most gut-wrenching losses a conference can suffer through. It means for all of the unnecessary handwringing about NIL, the transfer portal and whatever else comes next, that college football is amazing. 

It was a great day of football. It was the sort of entertainment we, the viewing audience deserve. It was the sort of game these players earned with this work. 

That game was what college football needed. Alabama may have taken a step back; Clemson is a shell of itself no matter how smug crazy Uncle Dabo has become; USC might be on the way soon… Ohio State and the Dawgs - two of the three biggest brands in college sports - took the baton and probably delivered a 25 million-viewer game. 

This was USC-Texas… just in the semifinals. 

“Just in the semifinals” is kind of the point, however. This game will only be remembered the way it deserves to be in the annals of UGA if the Dawgs beat TCU. The Dawgs are pretty big favorites. TCU is well within its right to play the underdog role. That’s what they are. 

Georgia should win the national title in LA in a week. That’s what should happen. Will it? 

Pack your defrubulfators. We will see you in Los Angeles.

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