You don’t raise a national championship trophy for the first time in 41 years without your entire team giving a winning, season-long effort. But even on an evening when, in the words of Corey Smith, every ‘Dawg had his day, some players are bound to step up their effort to a true championship level. They are your MVDs: the Most Valuable ‘Dawgs from Georgia’s 33-18 victory over Alabama.
Offense: Stetson Bennett, IV. No matter how you cut it, Georgia needed a good game from Bennett to win this one. We expected him to have to deal with some adversity and knew that how he responded might make or break it for the Classic City Canines.
But I don’t know that anyone expected the adversity to be that stark or the response that swift.
You saw it live, but let’s sum things up for posterity’s sake. With eleven minutes left in the fourth quarter and clinging to a lead deep in his own territory Bennett rolled right to escape pressure and attempted to heave the ball away as he was pulled down. As the ball trundled out of bounds Bama safety Brian Branch nonchalantly scooped it up with his toe approximately 0.0003 millimeters from being out of bounds, with no apparent knowledge that it mattered. The officials ruled the play a fumble recovered by Alabama and the Tide took over at the Georgia 16. Four plays later Bryce You g found tight end Cameron Latu for a go-ahead touchdown and it felt as if the Red and Black had been snakebitten once more.
But, as he said after the game, Bennett had decided that if Georgia was going to lose this game it was not going to be because of him. He would find AD Mitchell in a gorgeous 40 yard touchdown to retake the lead on Georgia’s next possession, then hit Brock Bowers on a looping pass to the flat that Napa’s Most Wanted turned into a 15 yard touchdown.
It’s been said, but bears repeating: Stetson Bennett was Georgia’s fifth string quarterback at one point and it was never the plan to try to win a national title with him under center. He was not supposed to be here, but he stayed the course, and when he had chances he made the most of them. Ten years from now I expect Stetson Bennett to be able to simply walk into any Athens area restaurant, walk back to the pass, and take any plate he wants off the ledge with a nod to the manager. He may never pay for a meal, drink, haircut, car or house in Clarke County for so long as he chooses to stay there. If he never takes another snap in Athens, Stetson Bennett is now not only an MVD, but an icon.
Drinking straight from a bottle of $6,000 bourbon then going on Good Morning America is about the most Georgia celebration conceivable. https://t.co/EprwPZxkeT
— National Champions HBTMFD (@dawgsports) January 12, 2022
Defense: William Poole, III. Lewis Cine was recognized as the defensive MVP and that’s a fine selection. Nakobe Dean is never a bad choice in this space. But Poole went from being a near non-factor in the rotation early in the season to playing a team high 85 defensive snaps Monday night. He gave up a total of 29 yards despite being targeted 9 times, and had 2 nice pass breakups. Alabama wanted to target Poole, they followed up on that plan, and it did not work. If William Poole hadn’t come up big when his name was called, he might well have been singled out as the reason Georgia lost this game.
Special teams: Jake Camarda. Camarda punted 5 times for a 44.5 yard average, which in and of itself is, you know, pretty good. But the real reason he was the Bulldogs’ special teams MVP was his unbelievable consistency. His first three punts left the Tide starting at their 20, 30, and 26 yard line, respectively. Then his fourth boot was downed at the Alabama 7. The final one was downed at the Bama 2. Especially early the Tide managed to move the ball on the Red and Black defense but time and again couldn’t quite get to the end zone.
A shanked Camarda punt could have easily given them a short field and allowed them to punch the ball in. If Bama scores touchdowns on two of their three first half scoring drives and leads 17-6 at the half instead of 9-6, this one could have been very different. There are a lot of players on this team who are going to be hard to replace in 2022, but Camarda is quietly going to be one of the toughest.