By Terrance Turner
Dec. 3, 2022
Today the undefeated Georgia Bulldogs (12-0) faced the LSU Tigers (9-3) in the SEC Championship. Inside the Mercedes-Benz stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, a crowd of mostly Bulldogs fans crowded to see if Georgia could pull off another win. Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett sought a second straight trophy after leading the Bulldogs to a national championship last year. The Bulldogs defeated the Tigers handily, earning their first SEC championship since 2017.
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels had a boot on his foot from Sunday through Tuesday. He said that he was at 90%, according to CBS Sports. But after Georgia’s defense tackled him on one play, Daniel’s percentage might have gone down. The aggressive defense aggravated his leg injury.
He still managed to throw a strike to a Tigers receiver for first and goal. But the Bulldogs defense kept LSU out of the end zone. After Georgia stuffed them on 3rd and goal the Tigers settled for a field goal.
Blocked Field Goal Leads To Nifty Play
LSU brought kicker Damian Ramos out for a 32-yard field goal attempt — which was blocked by Nazir Stackhouse and came to a rest at the Georgia 5. The ball landed on the field near the end zone. Bulldogs defensive back Christopher Smith waited for the ref to blow the whistle. But he didn’t. So Smith picked the ball up and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown. Georgia took the lead.
LSU struck right back. Daniels threw to a wide-open Kayshon Boutte, who broke several tackles on his way to a 53-yard touchdown. The Tigers tied the game at 7.
But Georgia retook the lead when Bennett threw to Georgia tight end Brock Bowers for the touchdown.
The Bulldogs scored again early in the second quarter when Bennett hit Ladd McConkey for a 22-yard touchdown. Georgia LED 21-7 with 14:43 remaining in the second.
Bennett led the Bulldogs through a majestic 13 play, 75-yard drive. They outsmarted the Tigers with a mix of running and passing. Bennett threw twice to WR Dominick Blaylock for first downs. But he sealed the drive with a 14-yard TD pass to tight end Darnell Washington.
Injuries Amid The Offense
Georgia’s next drive took all of 96 seconds. They scored in just five plays, three of which went for over 10 yards. Ladd McConkey caught a pass for 22 yards and brought the Bulldogs to 1st and goal at the two-yard line. But he got injured after a helmet-to-helmet hit. Sandwiched by defenders, McConkey crashed to the ground. And one of the LSU defenders landed on his leg. Consequently, McConkey stayed on the ground, clutching the back of his knee.
McConkey (finally) got to his feet and limped off the field. He exited the game afterward due to a knee injury. Subsequently, running back Dillon Bell rushed 3 yards into the end zone for a touchdown.
Unfortunately, McConkey wasn’t the only player hurt. Daniels continued to struggle with his injured leg. And the Bulldogs defense continued to be relentless. With two minutes to go in the second, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter grabbed him for a sack and then lifted him in the air to celebrate. (Carter picked Daniels up with one hand!)
On LSU’s final drive of the half, Daniels got the Tigers within field goal range. But he couldn’t even stay to watch the field goal attempt: Daniels walked to the locker room with under a minute left. The field goal attempt was good. Georgia led 35-10 at the half.
Georgia got the ball back to start the second half. But the Bulldogs couldn’t hold on to it. Kenny McIntosh fumbled the ball on one play but picked it back up. Then a botched hand off to Kendall Milton led to another fumble. The Tigers recovered. And Bennett got flagged for diving at the legs of an LSU player who was trying to recover the ball. It didn’t work.
The Tigers cashed in on the interception. Backup QB Garrett Nussmeier came in and hurled a rocket to fullback Connor Neighbors for the touchdown. LSU cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 18, trailing 35-17.
However, Georgia responded with another scoring drive. With five minutes left in the third, running back Kendall Milton took off to the races. He ran 51 yards, all the way to the 15-yard line. Kenny McIntosh got four more. Then he bulldozed his way to the two-yard line for first and goal. Finally, he redeemed himself with a 2-yard rush for the touchdown. After the extra point kick, Georgia led 42-17.
The Tigers scored again just before the end of the third quarter. Noah Cain punched it in for LSU, and his rushing TD made it 42-23. But it didn’t take long for the bulldogs to respond.
Early in the 4th, Georgia expanded its lead and added a little razzle-dazzle: after McIntosh ran in for his second touchdown of the day, Georgia decided to go for two. Bennett handed the ball to Adonai Mitchell, who handed the ball to Darnell Washington for a two-point conversion.
The Bulldogs were rolling, 50-23.
But the Tigers weren’t done yet. Nussmeier somehow evaded a swarming Bulldog defense and made a complete throw to wide receiver Jaray Jenkins for a 33-yard touchdown.
But that was as close as they would get. Georgia held on to win, 50-30. The Bulldogs have won their first SEC championship since 2017.
Stetson Bennett threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns. He won MVP. Following the game, he spoke with reporters on what the game means to him. “This is special. I think we played a really good game today. We played for each other; we came out and we executed really well.” He added: “This one’s pretty special.”