Georgia thumps TCU, wins second straight CFP championship

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — A rainy day around Los Angeles seemed an opportune time to step indoors for an art exhibit, and 72,628 wound up doing just that Monday — whether they wound up liking it or not. They saw the bruising art of American football calibrated to one of its grandest levels across the 153 years since a batch of brutes got it going on some scraggly field in New Jersey.

They saw Georgia, the American dynasty of the moment, take a meritorious group of Horned Frogs from TCU, wallop them, 65-7, and turn them into something akin to prey. They saw Georgia claim the first repeat national championship of the College Football Playoff era (and the first overall in 10 years), become the fourth team ever to go 15-0, and reach 29-1 over two seasons between which the NFL spent late April raiding their roster. They saw collaborative greatness even if they did not see competitive drama.

As they watched or eventually didn’t, a rugged bunch of Bulldogs sprinkled the field with both the elegant plays and inelegant stops necessary to elevate their college football to among the finest forms yet seen. With their pretty urgency nine days after their 42-41 escape from Ohio State in a Peach Bowl national semifinal, they called to mind others that cemented their budding dynasties with romps, such as Nebraska in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl (62-24) or Alabama in the 2013 Bowl Championship Series title game (42-14). They also reinforced the towering notion that the best American football comes from the Southeast, the region of eight straight national championships from four different universities.

As it happened: Blow by blow of the Bulldogs’ rout

From the get-go, Georgia players ran in the open prairies of their own creation and their own array of threats, from 25-year-old quarterback Stetson Bennett IV streaming in through gaping space for a 21-yard touchdown run that opened the scoring. , to Ladd McConkey catching a 37-yard touchdown pass from Bennett on which McConkey ran so unbothered he looked kind of lonely, to tight end Brock Bowers making precise catches of precise throws to amass seven catches for 152 yards and a masterful third-quarter touchdown .

Bennett finished 18 of 25 for 304 yards and four touchdowns through the air. He also rushed three times for 39 yards and two more scores, earning his second consecutive offensive MVP honor in the national title game.

“What he did tonight was truly amazing,” Bulldogs Coach Kirby Smart said. “Probably had his best game of his career.”

Said Bennett: “It seems like for the past three or four months, we’ve been looking to see if somebody could beat us, and we just ran out of games.”

And then he finished: “Nobody could.”

TCU Coach Sonny Dykes acknowledged what he was up against after the fact.

“We ran into a really good team,” Dykes said. “We did some uncharacteristic things, and it snowballed on us.”

If you needed Georgia to demonstrate it could whoosh down the field in a hurry, it could do that, with drives such as four plays for 70 yards, five for 57 or four for 55. If you needed it to show it could plod along effectively , it could do that, with 11 plays for 92 yards or 11 plays for 66 yards.

Did you need it to show it could put the clamps on a great offense? Yes, it could, hassling TCU’s gritty quarterback, Max Duggan, or limiting its greatest player, wide receiver Quentin Johnston, to one catch for three yards.

Splashy numbers turned up everywhere, from the 9.3 yards per play Georgia hogged while building a 38-7 halftime lead to the passer rating of Bennett, which soared and stayed above the 200 level in the latest testament to the long, upward trip of a quarterback who once transferred away from Georgia to a junior college in Mississippi and then came back, all while the Georgia coaches never suspected he would rise to such realms.

TCU (13-2), the most unexpected finalist so far in the nine-year College Football Playoff era, got itself only one moment of hope that has sustained it through a season of hair-raising battles it won with its demonstrable character. While trailing 10-0, he ran a pass play that sent Johnston over the middle and fellow wide receiver Derius Davis whirling outside. Georgia saw Johnston but lost Davis, who caught Duggan’s pass for a 60-yard gain, setting up Duggan’s two-yard keeper.

Brewer: TCU was a deserving finalist and college football is better with variety

Then Georgia gained 11, 11, 11 and 37 on a 70-yard drive to McConkey’s opening touchdown. Then Georgia went 92 yards in those 11 players toward Bennett’s six-yard touchdown. Then Georgia went 66 yards in 11 plays for Kendall Milton’s one-yard touchdown. Then Georgia got an interception it didn’t need and went 22 yards in two plays for Adonai Mitchell’s 22-yard catch from Bennett on a well-guarded matter of great precision, proving Georgia could easily do that, too.

Eventually, matters drifted into a fourth quarter in which Bennett could stand on the sideline and calmly welcome a second straight title, one much less nerve-racking than the 33-18 resistance of Alabama last year that helped Georgia clear its longtime hurdle. Branson Robinson, a reserve running back, got seven carries for 42 yards and scored from one yard out on his sixth. That made it 59-7 and made it noncompetitive even by the standards of the College Football Playoff, which has known its duds.

By then, Georgia would clearly move to 81-15 in the seven-season tenure of Smart, the former Georgia defensive back who once coordinated the defense of another dynasty, Alabama. Georgia would make itself the ruling force in the sport even as it goes towards another quarterback with Bennett finally finished. And those watching Georgia, especially those in Georgia red and black, would know they had seen a rare level in all the years of the art.

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