Georgia rallies past Ohio State, heads to College Football Playoff finale

Georgia Bulldogs defenders Kelee Ringo (5), Jason Walker (11) and Small London, Jr. (2) celebrate after a sack of Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud in the Peach Bowl on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI
Georgia Bulldogs defenders Kelee Ringo (5), Jason Walker (11) and Small London, Jr. (2) celebrate after a sack of Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud in the Peach Bowl on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Quarterback Stetson Bennett stayed cool, allowing No. 1 Georgia to overcome two 14-point deficits and rally to beat Ohio State in the Peach Bowl -- the second College Football Playoff semifinal -- Saturday in Atlanta.

Bennett completed 23 of 34 passes for 398 yards, three scores and an interception in the 42-41 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He also ran for a score for the Bulldogs (14-0).


"They are an unbelievable team," Bennett told ESPN. "We fought and we fought. It seemed like they beat us the whole game. But we came back."

The reigning national champions will now battle No. 2 TCU in the College Football Playoff finale Jan. 9 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. The No. 3 Horned Frogs beat the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines in the Fiesta Bowl, the first semifinal matchup, Saturday afternoon in Glendale, Ariz.


Quarterback C.J. Stroud completed 23 of 34 passes for 348 yards and four scores -- with three in the first half -- for the No. 4 Buckeyes (11-2). He showed off his terrific rapport with star wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. for two first half touchdowns.

Harrison was hit hard in the third quarter and did not play down the stretch, which hampered the Buckeyes' offense.

"We have great resiliency, a never-say-die attitude and great toughness," Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart told ESPN. "At the end of the day, we didn't play very well. Ohio State probably deserved to win the game, but we never quit."

Sloppy play resulted in a punt and missed field goal for the Buckeyes and Bulldogs first respective drives. The Buckeyes then drew first blood when Stroud threw a 31-yard touchdown toss to Harrison.

The Bulldogs answered with an eight-play, 75-yard drive. Running back Kenny McIntosh split the Buckeyes defense for a 25-yard rushing score to end that drive.

Stroud engineered an 11-play, 75-yard drive on the next possession, which ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by Miyan Williams.

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Bennett threw an interception to Buckeyes linebacker Steele Chambers on the first play of the next drive. The Buckeyes turned the turnover into points three plays later when Stroud connected with Harrison for a 16-yard touchdown.


That score pushed the Buckeyes lead to 14 points, but the Bulldogs woke up to end the half.

Running back Kendall Milton scored on an 11-yard run less than two minutes after the Harrison score. Bennett later ran for a 3-yard score, which tied the score with 6:07 remaining in the half.

Kicker Jack Podlesny added a 32-yard field goal with 1:44 to go in the second quarter. That run of 17 unanswered points gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the night.

Stroud shut down that rally with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Johnson about a minute later to give the lead back to the Buckeyes. They carried a 28-24 edge into the break.

The Buckeyes extended that lead on their first drive of the second half, when Stroud threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Emeka Egbuka.

Kicker Noah Ruggles added a 25-yard field goal at the end of the quarter for the second 14-point of the game for the Buckeyes, but the Bulldogs bit back for a second time to tighten the gap.


Podlesny made a 31-yard field goal 1:46 into the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs defense forced a 3-and-out from the Buckeyes on the resulting possession.

Bennett connected with Arian Smith for a 76-yard score on the next play. That score, and a successful 2-point conversion, cut the Buckeyes lead to three points.

Ruggles responded by drilling a 48-yard field goal with 2:43 remaining, but Bennett immediately led the Bulldogs into Buckeyes territory on the next drive.

He ended that five-play, 72-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown toss to Adonai Mitchell in the left side of the end zone. Podlesny followed with an extra point to give the Bulldogs their final advantage with less than a minute remaining.

Stroud led the Buckeyes to the Bulldogs 32-yard line of the final drive, but Ruggles missed left on the potential game-winning field goal attempt.

Smith totaled a game-high 129 yards and a score on three catches in the victory. Egbuka and Harrison totaled 112 and 106 receiving yards, respectively, for the Buckeyes.

Georgia will face TCU in the College Football Playoff finale at 7:30 p.m. EST Jan. 9 in Inglewood.


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