Georgia’s 54-48 double-overtime win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl was an instant classic and immediately the best College Football Playoff semifinal ever played.
The Bulldogs won thanks to a 27-yard run by running back Sony Michel in the second overtime after an Oklahoma field goal was blocked by Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter. Here are five pivotal moments and sequences from the game that led to Michel’s game-winning touchdown run and a virtual home game for the Bulldogs in the National Championship Game in Atlanta.
5. Oklahoma’s squib kick with 12 seconds left in the first half
The Sooners took a 31-14 lead with 12 seconds to go in the half on a gorgeous play that ended with quarterback Baker Mayfield wide open in the end zone and catching a touchdown pass.
After the TD, OU decided to kick a squib kick to prevent a long return by Georgia. One problem. Austin Seibert’s kick went 12 yards after it was kicked straight at a Georgia player on the return team. A nine-yard pass later from QB Jake Fromm to WR Terry Godwin and Georgia was in position for a 55-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship.
The kick was good, and suddenly Georgia was down just two possessions at halftime instead of three. That 31-17 deficit turned out to be imperative as Georgia quickly tied the game at 31-31 in the second half.
4. Oklahoma’s tying touchdown with 8:46 left
Georgia seized a 38-31 lead just seconds into the fourth quarter. If you believe strongly in the power of momentum, Oklahoma had no chance at that point.
But the Sooners forced a punt on Georgia’s next possession and took advantage to tie the game. OU covered 88 yards in six plays and 1:43 to tie the game at 38-38. The game-tying touchdown came as Mayfield bought himself time and found fullback Dmitri Flowers in the back of the end zone.
3. Steven Parker’s fumble return touchdown
If you believe strongly in the power of momentum, Georgia had no chance at this point. On the Bulldogs’ next possession after Oklahoma’s score, the fourth play of the drive was a toss to the left to dependable running back Sony Michel.
Michel fumbled. The ball popped out of his hands and squirted towards the sideline. Oklahoma defensive back Steven Parker picked it up before it went out of bounds and stayed in bounds himself as he started sprinting towards the end zone.
He cut inside to beat a would-be tackler and scored on a 46-yard fumble recovery with 6:52 left to give the Sooners a touchdown lead.
2. Oklahoma’s execution in the final four minutes of regulation
Oklahoma was forced to punt the ball back to Georgia while still leading 45-38. With 3:22 left, Georgia had plenty of time for a game-tying score. But Oklahoma punter Austin Seibert gifted the Bulldogs some serious field position.
The Sooners were forced to punt from their own 30 and Seibert’s punt traveled just 29 yards. That gave Georgia the ball on its own 41 and the Bulldogs scored a game-tying touchdown seven plays later when Nick Chubb scored via a wildcat formation.
OU got the ball back with 55 seconds left and made it all the way to its own 45 with 29 ticks remaining. But Mayfield went deep on third down and missed his receiver instead of going for a short route that would get the first down or breaking the pocket for the needed yardage.
Seibert, who doubles as Oklahoma’s kicker, had a season-long field goal of 51 yards. OU probably only needed 20 more yards to get into field goal range. And with those 29 seconds left, didn’t need all 20 of those yards in one play.
1. Not utilizing Mayfield’s passing prowess in overtime
The two overtime periods were a sequence in bizarre playcalling. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley put on a playcalling clinic in the first half. But it’s impossible not to wonder if that first-half clinic led to some curious calls in the overtime periods.
As Oklahoma settled for two field goal attempts — one made, one blocked — the Sooners ran just eight plays. Mayfield officially threw the ball three times, but only one of those passes was downfield. That came on a shallow crossing route to Marquise Brown on third down in the second overtime. Oklahoma got seven yards on the play. It needed 12.
Seibert’s ensuing kick was blocked and Georgia scored a game-winning touchdown two plays later.
It’s of no consolation to OU fans that Georgia would have still won the game if Seibert’s kick was good. That’s not going to be a situation that’s second-guessed. The second-guessing is going to be about how the 2017 Heisman winner was directly involved less than half of the team’s overtime plays.
Mayfield was the best quarterback in college football in 2017 and magical at times on Monday. Oklahoma may not have won if he threw the ball five or more times over those two overtime periods. But it’s far easier to accept that Mayfield’s college career ended with him slinging it than it did with him handing it off or pitching it.
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