When Georgia and Alabama first met in the university football season of 2021, the Bulldogs’ defense could not reach Crimson quarterback Tide Bryce Young. The winner of the Heisman Trophy was well protected from aggressive pass rush.
This was not the case in a retaliatory match on Monday night.
With the national championship at stake, Georgia has given Alabama a whole new look. It increased the pressure on Young and he managed to fire the sophomore four times, including the final game, to help Georgia win 33:18 and the first title in the program since 1980.
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A month earlier in the SEC championship match, he set fire to Georgia’s defense, which was in first place in the country in most points and overall footage for most of the season. The Bulldogs couldn’t throw him out and were dismantled for 421 yards and three touchdowns when Alabama won 41:24.
According to Pro Football Focus, Georgia recorded only six QB hits and only 16 rushes in the game. Young struggled when he was under pressure, finishing only 31.3 percent of his passes for 95 yards in those games, but he was also under pressure for only 37.5 percent of his dropbacks.
Georgia’s performance was an anomaly. The Bulldogs were at the top of the rankings for most of the season due to their strength of defense. The unit received the highest mark from Pro Football Focus heading for the national championship match and the pass rush was rated No. 5. The defense placed in the top five in bags on the strength of the line, which was one of the most feared in the nation. But in the SEC title game, it failed to generate pressure to slow Young.
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Georgia picked it up this time. Although Young was not fired, he was flushed out of his pocket and forced to throw in tight coverage, which was made all the more difficult by the lack of his best wide receivers, John Metchie and Jameson Williams, who were injured outside.
He told Football Focus that Georgia hit Young 10 times on Monday and rushed him 26 times. Young was under pressure for 44.3 percent of his dropbacks and finished just 50 percent of his passes at 136 yards.
“Some things have changed,” from the first meeting to the second, Young said after the match. “We knew we could get different looks. Some looks, it took me a while to get down. The line fought and fought all day, all season and some of these things can look like an interior, they can look like a scheme, but I have a lot to do with it.
“They exchanged some things, they had other tendencies and I have to work it out faster. I just make the right game for the team better than I do tonight, so some things have changed and I haven’t been able to do that.”
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Although Bednarik Award winner Jordan Davis was slowed down on the line, other line players, such as Jalen Carter, Robert Beal and Devonte Wyatt, joined. This trio collected the best score among Bulldogs players at PFF.
The Georgia attack did what it needed, scoring 26 points and checking the 28:29 time to help the defense rest. But in the end, the defense that brought the Bulldogs to the national championship match managed to win this elusive title against Crimson Tide.