I am, predictably, having trouble organizing my thoughts for this column.
Something amazing happened Monday night. A 41-year title drought was ended when the University of Georgia defeated the University of Alabama, game officials, and its own fanbase’s negative narratives to win the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, 33-18.
The Bulldogs finally got the elephant-sized monkey off their backs, and what a monkey it was. UGA had lost seven straight to the Crimson Tide, three in SEC Championship Games and another in the National Championship four years ago in Atlanta.
But Monday’s game wasn’t played in Atlanta. Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium was the venue where history was made, joining the Superdome in New Orleans and the Rose Bowl as places the Bulldog Nation will forever hold dear. Names like Stetson Bennett IV and Kelee Ringo will ring — like the Chapel Bell — throughout Georgia football history alongside guys like Herschel Walker and Frank Sinkwich.
That’s right. Stetson Bennett IV. A former walk-on who chose to bet on himself and attend his dream school, even though he knew getting significant playing time would be a fight. His determination and ability to let the negative slide right off his back are what allowed him to come through in the clutch Monday night. There was a controversial fumble ruling in a big moment — Georgia fans had seen that film before. But this time, the one they call The Mailman was in the starring role. He delivered a football 50-plus yards that fell from the stadium roof like sugar in the famous Larry Munson call 40 years ago. It landed in the hands of freshman wide receiver Adonai Mitchell and gave the Bulldogs new hope. For those of you who had been calling for Bennett’s head, did you enjoy the young man’s Offensive MVP performance Monday?
The National Championship victory means so much to so many people. From the coast to Columbus. From the North Georgia mountains to the Gnat Line, and even those below it, God bless ‘em. I speak for myself and many others I know well when I say Georgia football is in our heart, it’s in our soul, it’s in our bones, and it’s in our blood. We were raised knowing how long before kickoff pregame radio coverage begins. We tailgated. We road tripped. For the longest time, too many Georgia-Florida weekends ended with us saying, “We lost again.” As good as it feels to get a big win, that’s how much the losses hurt. And man has there been a lot of hurt. But the payoff — well, she’s a beauty.
I’ve never been more proud to be a graduate of the University of Georgia. Like some coaches and players say after winning championships, I’m not sure I have a full grasp on the enormity of this accomplishment yet. Maybe it’ll sink in when a friend and I go to Athens to welcome the team back. Maybe the parade will cement it for me. No matter what, I’m not accepting any trash talk from any college football fanbases until next season. It’s a great time to be a Georgia Bulldog, and I’m sure I can’t put it into words any better than UGA legend Larry Munson did in his pregame narration played prior to kickoffs inside Sanford Stadium: “Understanding that there is no tradition more worthy of envy, no institution worthy of such loyalty as the University of Georgia.”
Go Dawgs, y’all.
A little bit of housekeeping before I wrap up. For the second year in a row, I put out the call on my Facebook page for final score predictions prior to the National Championship Game. The spoils? A mention in this here column. The top prize, if you can call it that, goes to Adam Wynn, who, ironically enough, is the reason I have this column. We were students at the same time in Athens, and we’ve remained friends since. He gave me my first assignment as a sports writer some years ago, which led to me eventually taking my current position. His prediction of 33-14 was closest in a field of more than 20, so here ya go Adam. Don’t let the fame go to your head.