Years from now, you’ll talk about the Granddaddy of them all—one of the most memorable nights in Rose Bowl history. It was breathtaking and unbelievable, historic and unforgettable when you think of all the twists and turns that occurred in a wild playoff game at a swaggering, raucous, sold-out Rose Bowl.
So you wanted to stick with tradition — Big 10 vs. Pac-12? So what if bowl tradition is broken? It wasn’t missed much when the game featured a prolific Oklahoma offense lead by the electrifying quarterback Baker Mayfield. It didn’t matter when a vicious Georgia defense showed up to pressure and pester Mayfield and the Sooners offense.
Put aside tradition, and take a moment to remember an instant classic. It was without doubt one of the greatest games ever played at this historic landmark. It marked the largest comeback and the first overtime game in the 104-year history of the Rose Bowl.
The Sooners, flawlessly led by Mayfield, piled up huge points, and the Bulldogs fell behind, 31-14, with six seconds remaining in the first half. Georgia’s defense made adjustments at halftime, which were the difference in the second half. From there, with the ferocity of Georgia’s No. 4 ranked defense aggressively getting after Mayfield, the Bulldogs defensive line neutralized a high-powered Sooners’ offense.
Mayfield was just 10 for 17 in the second half and limited to 87 yards, mostly because he was chased down by Georgia’s notoriously menacing defense. He was punished by the Bulldogs, who often found ways to get to him. Still, while he was under duress, with no place to run, Mayfield showed the country why he won Heisman and may have even pleaded his case to go higher in the upcoming NFL draft.
He threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a touchdown pass. Just before halftime, the Sooners reached into their bag of trick plays, dialing up one that extended the lead to 17. Mayfield took the snap and handed it off on a sweep to senior full back Dimitri Flowers, who flipped the ball to CeeDee Lamb on a reverse. Mayfield ran right, while Georgia defenders raced toward Lamb. The receiver perfectly lofted a pass to the quarterback in the end zone for a touchdown.
With the Dawgs barking and biting in the second half, Mayfield wasn’t at his best and suddenly he couldn’t evade the pressure coming from Georgia’s front, so he was sacked and began to force too many throws. In fact, the one turnover that comes to mind was when he badly overthrew his intended tight end Mark Andrews and right into the hands of Dominick Sanders for an interception. That’s what set up a Georgia touchdown for the team’s first lead of the night by the way.
When Georgia took the field after a porous first half on defense, the defensive unit figured out some way to stop Mayfield. The most notable difference was the timely big plays by a plundering Bulldogs defense that allowed a season-worst 531 yards.
And guess what? The front seven picked up the slack with Georgia linebacker D’Andre Walker and defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter. Mayfield was taken down three times and went just 2 for 4 through the air in the third quarter, victimized by the merciless Bulldogs.
But, before long, Mayfield rediscovered himself and came into his own, just as we saw in the first half. After Georgia’s defense held Oklahoma to 29 yards in the third quarter alone, Mayfield came alive in the fourth. There was a sense now that he could be a superhero, that he would provide a spark of his own and engineer a game-winning drive as time dwindled in a crazy one that could’ve gone either way.
He wasn’t scared, that’s for sure. He connected with Lamb for 36 yards on a pass down the sideline. A play later, he bolted 22 yards before being pushed out of bounds, and moments later he found Flowers in the back of the end zone, amazingly, for a touchdown to tie it 38-38. With seven minutes to play, Georgia running back Sony Michel fumbled at his own 46-yard line and Oklahoma’s Steven Parker picked it up and ran for a touchdown to put the Sooners ahead.
Driven by his competitive spirit, to the surprise of no one, Mayfield gave the Sooners a fighting chance. This was the biggest game of his career, the Rose Bowl Game, presented by Northwestern Mutual, the playoff game he spent a lifetime trying to make. He never quit and, in the final quarter while the pesky and stingy Bulldogs tested Mayfield’s strengths, he was nothing short of amazing. He went 23 of 25 and passed for 287 yards with two touchdowns and a pick.
Those who were lucky enough to witness it enjoyed an all-time classic. This was a game the Sooners should’ve won, with Mayfield oozing the sort of swagger and competitive drive that almost catapulted Oklahoma to victory. The excitement of 2018 came for the Bulldogs in the final moments of a nail-biting and eye-shutting double overtime.
It was Lorenzo Carter who knifed his 6-foot-6 frame through Oklahoma’s line and extended his arms to swat down Austin Siebert’s 27-yard field goal attempt in the second overtime. A few plays later, Michel took a direct snap and barreled 27 yards for a touchdown in the second overtime, sending the Bulldogs to the national championship game for the first time since 1983.
This was one of most pivotal plays, a moment that decided the outcome of the game. Game summary: Big plays, a dramatic comeback, lead changes, a blocked field goal, a game-winning touchdown and a Bulldog victory. Monday night’s chilling and thrilling 55-48 victory over Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff semifinal game secured a trip close to home in Atlanta, where Georgia will play for the whole thing next Monday night.
After Nick Chubb’s 50-yard touchdown run minutes into the second half, the Bulldogs created momentum. The Sooners had gone from having all of the momentum in the game. Mayfield wasn’t running over to the sideline, jumping up and down, waving his arms up and galvanizing the crowd.
The Bulldogs capitalized on a blunder by the Sooners in the second quarter and cut into a deficit by making plays defensively. Seibert foolishly attempted a squib kick to prevent a last-second long Georgia return with six seconds left. It turns out that wasn’t the smartest thing as the kick was picked off by Bulldogs’ Tae Crowder midfield. It was a play later that Rodrigo Blankenship connected on a 55-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
Keep in mind, Georgia’s defense won this game. Give the defense the credit it deserves for stopping arguably the most exciting quarterback in the country. The old cliche is that defense wins games.
That was the case for these Bulldogs.