CFP National Championship Recap: No. 1 Georgia runs roughshod over No. 3 TCU 65-7 to earn its second straight national championship

Georgia defensive lineman Mykel Williams (13) and Georgia defensive lineman Bear Alexander (99) sack TCU quarterback Max Duggan (15) during the first half of the NCAA College Football National Championship game between TCU and Georgia on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. News Joshua L Jones

CFP National Championship Recap: No. 1 Georgia runs roughshod over No. 3 TCU 65-7 to earn its second straight national championship

No. 1 Georgia 65, No. 3 TCU 7  

No. 1 Georgia routed No. 3 TCU in Monday night’s CFP National Championship presented by AT&T, winning its second straight national championship while improving to 29-1 since the beginning of last season. Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV passed for four touchdowns and ran for two more as the Bulldogs’ offense had its way all night. TCU senior quarterback Max Duggan finished the night 14-of-22 for 152 yards and two interceptions. Duggan was sacked five times as TCU’s offensive line struggled to hold off Georgia’s behemoths up front all night.

Despite the unusual cold and rain that battered Southern California all day Monday, the lines shined bright as ever inside SoFi Stadium as the TCU Horned Frogs and Georgia Bulldogs took the field. The CFP Semifinal stage against Michigan was special in its own right, but the National Championship brings a different level of scrutiny – and on TCU’s first possession, the effects of the moment’s immense pressure were obvious. The Frogs committed a false start before their first play from scrimmage, and two inaccurate throws from Max Duggan led to a punt after just three plays.

Georgia’s first possession also began with a false start, but the Bulldogs were a train headed downhill regardless. Two easy completions to tight end Brock Bowers helped cover ground quickly for Georgia, and a designed run for quarterback Stetson Bennett IV led to a 21-yard untouched scamper into the end zone for the 25-year-old. Just four minutes into the game, Georgia had its first lead, 7-0. 

TCU’s second drive did not look much better. The Frogs’ offensive line was completely overwhelmed by Georgia’s defense on a blown-up read-option run. Derius Davis fumbled three plays later to give the Bulldogs back the football in TCU territory. This time, TCU’s defense held strong to allow only a field goal – but 10-0 felt like 21-0 as momentum swelled on the Georgia sideline.

Finally, TCU created a spark on its third drive. Max Duggan hurled a deep ball to a wide-open Derius Davis, and the senior quickly redeemed himself for his fumble with a catch and run down to the Georgia 11-yard line. Three plays later, Max Duggan sprinted into the end zone from 2 yards out to make it 10-7 with 4:45 to go in the first quarter.

While the Horned Frogs’ offense seemed to be figuring it out, their defense continued to provide little resistance. Georgia quickly struck with a touchdown to re-extend their lead to 17-7, a 37-yard strike from Stetson Bennett to wide-open wide receiver Ladd McConkey. After TCU stalled out on its next drive, a great punt forced Georgia to start its first, second-quarter possession inside its own 10-yard line. Once again, the Bulldogs made offense look easy. Georgia cruised 88 yards over 11 plays, capping off the possession with a second touchdown run for Stetson Bennett IV that made it 24-7. 

Max Duggan missed a golden opportunity on TCU’s next drive, overthrowing a wide-open Quentin Johnston on third down and instead finding Georgia defensive back Javon Bullard. The interception handed the ball back to the Bulldogs’ offense, which continued to steamroll the Horned Frogs. After 11 more plays and 66 more yards, Kendall Milton’s 1-yard touchdown run made it 31-7 Georgia with 1:23 to go before halftime.

Georgia wasn’t done scoring before the half, either. A sack forced TCU into a third-and-long, and Max Duggan’s desperate throw was picked off by Javon Bullard for the second time. Stetson Bennett IV connected with Adonai Mitchell two plays later, and Georgia’s lead was 38-7 with 26 seconds left in the half.

Sonny Dykes described his team as “wide-eyed” heading into the locker room at halftime, lamenting the Frogs’ three turnovers. It wasn’t pretty.

Trailing by 31 heading into the third quarter, it was obvious that the second half of Monday night’s CFP National Championship would be about playing with pride for the Horned Frogs. TCU’s defense exhibited its character quickly, forcing a three-and-out and Georgia’s first punt of the night on the Bulldogs’ first possession after halftime.

Unfortunately for the Frogs, character wasn’t enough to hold Georgia down for long. Stetson Bennett IV connected with tight end Brock Bowers on the Bulldogs’ next drive for a 22-yard touchdown that made it 45-7, and hit Ladd McConkey for a 14-yard score later in the quarter to extend the lead to 52-7. 

Georgia finally removed Bennett early in the fourth quarter, officially calling off the dogs on what had been a blowout since the early going. Sophomore quarterback Carson Beck took Bennett’s place, but Georgia’s offense kept rolling down the tracks anyway. Branson Robinson dragged TCU defenders into the end zone for a touchdown with 9:24 left, extending Georgia’s lead to 59-7 and setting a record for points scored in a national title game. After two more sacks of Max Duggan continued to move TCU backward, Georgia took the ball back quickly and made it 65-7 on Branson Robinson’s second straight touchdown run.

Max Duggan was removed from the game with seven minutes to go as well, replaced by freshman quarterback Chandler Morris. Each team committed to the run in the game’s final moments, and Georgia celebrated its second straight national title in blowout fashion.

Monday night’s CFP National Championship was never competitive. TCU was run over, bludgeoned from start to finish by an incredibly talented and well-deserving champion. Georgia outgained the Horned Frogs 589 yards to 188 and gained 32 first downs to only 9 for TCU. The yardage margin of 401 was the largest national championship history by more than 100. The Horned Frogs’ offense averaged just 1.3 yards per carry and turned the ball over three times, while the defense forced none.

Head coach Kirby Smart has built a juggernaut in Athens, Georgia, but he did not inherit one. Smart’s first year in Georgia finished just 8-5, a season that ended with a 31-23 Liberty Bowl win over Gary Patterson’s TCU Horned Frogs.

If Sonny Dykes’ first season as TCU’s head coach is any indication, fans in Fort Worth have a special future to look forward to. It takes time to build culture, something Kirby Smart has done incredibly successfully. Although Monday night’s game was a particularly brutal loss in front of an incredibly large audience, it is worth the energy to appreciate the culture being built at TCU. Max Duggan and Quentin Johnson won’t be back, but many others will continue building on 2022’s sturdy foundation.

Monday night made clear how far the Horned Frogs still have to come, but earning the right to play Monday night spoke to what is possible at TCU. Just last season, the Horned Frogs finished 5-7 and failed to make a bowl game. Only four players on TCU’s roster had ever played in a bowl game, let alone a national championship game.

Nothing is guaranteed in college football. TCU is ahead of schedule, and the solid recruiting class headed to Fort Worth next season is evidence of that. The Horned Frogs never quit. Next year’s edition won’t, either. It’s simply not part of the program’s culture.

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