ATLANTA – As Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles lined as much as try the game-winning 50-yard discipline objective, midnight approached on the East Coast. As hundreds of thousands waited for the ball to drop and a brand new 12 months to kick in, a rollicking day of school soccer hurtled towards a crescendo.
Georgia led Ohio State by one level, 42-41, and Kirby Good referred to as a day trip to try to ice Ruggles. A din of worry, loathing and anticipation stuffed Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the proper emotional cocktail for a semifinal day the game had waited practically a decade to unfold in such a fashion.
College Football Playoff govt director Invoice Hancock stood unassumingly close to the objective line the place Ohio State was trying to kick. He declared victory earlier than a victor had been determined. “What a great day for college football,” he beamed.
The primary wire-to-wire riveting semifinal day the game had seen got here proper as the present system is on the cusp of ending. It is the second-to-last 12 months of the present four-team format, as too many blowouts within the prior eight seasons had led, partly, to the game increasing to a 12-team playoff beginning within the 2024 season.
The four-team system was too predictable, after which alongside got here two video games that nobody might have seen coming.
Ruggles shanked his discipline objective left, a knuckleball to sputter within the New 12 months. Georgia took a knee one time, and the sport ended at 12:01 a.m., one of many nice days within the latest historical past of the game taking the span of two totally different years to finish. Fittingly, the drama could not fairly slot in one.
The missed discipline objective set off a wild Georgia celebration in the course of the sector, the ultimate reminder of how riveting, excruciating and confounding school soccer will be.
On the outskirts of Phoenix, TCU swaggered in as a 7.5-point underdog earlier within the day and unleashed probably the most bedeviling upsets within the latest historical past of the game. The No. 3 Horned Frogs by no means flinched, unfurling 51 factors on a protection that allowed a median of 13.4 factors per recreation this season.
In downtown Atlanta, No. 4 Ohio State appeared poised to clinch the sport within the closing minute of the third quarter till a game-changing hit by Georgia’s Javon Bullard prevented a landing and knocked star Ohio State wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. from the sport. That hit modified the course of the night time for Georgia, and could possibly be the pivot level if it clinches back-to-back nationwide titles.
The No. 1 Bulldogs will play No. 3 TCU for the nationwide title, with Georgia seeking to develop into simply the game’s first to win back-to-back titles in a decade, since Alabama final completed the double in 2012.
TCU might be looking for this system’s first nationwide title since 1938, and so they’ll invite anybody to imagine they’re simply SEC fodder. Simply ask Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who solid them as Large Ten chum. Really, you could not, as a result of he bolted from his press convention after one query within the wake of the loss, sounding rather a lot much less lofty than in his pre-game predictions of Michigan pushing round TCU.
A day that started dreaming of the Large Ten having a pair of groups within the nationwide title recreation ended with the league going empty handed. The league’s focus goes from the anticipatory euphoria of the convention’s first nationwide title since 2014 to the management questions hovering over the league, with Commissioner Kevin Warren having interviewed to develop into the president of the Chicago Bears. It solely took one minute into 2023 for the Large Ten’s points to be ushered to the forefront.
Right here in Atlanta, a pall of missed alternative hung over the Ohio State locker room. Gene Smith walked out of the locker room, hugged Ryan Day’s spouse, Nina, and ambled off into the night time shaking his head in disbelief. Staffers muttered about the identical hole feeling that emerged again in 2019, when Ohio State squandered a number of alternatives to beat a Trevor Lawrence-led Clemson workforce.
The gamers and coaches dwelled on all of the little issues. The squandered effort of quarterback C.J. Stroud, who threw for 348 yards, 4 touchdowns and out of the blue channeled his inner-Braxton Miller with a flurry of second-half scrambles. They bemoaned the squandered effort of the inside of Ohio State’s offensive line, which neutralized Jalen Carter.
They questioned what might have been totally different if not for Harrison’s absence because the offense went stagnant within the fourth quarter. There was, in fact, the missed discipline objective that might have received the sport. The overturned focusing on name on the Harrison hit that might have given Ohio State a first-and-goal. The defensive collapse within the fourth quarter after battering Georgia’s offensive line to close them out within the third quarter.
“There were a lot of plays you wish you had back as coaches and players,” OSU coach Ryan Day stated. “That’s what happens in a game like this.”
Probably the most searing what if — and certain the most effective teaching counter of the night time — got here when Ohio State appeared to have executed a pretend punt within the fourth quarter. On a fourth-and-1 by itself 34-yard line, Ohio State sneaked two offensive linemen onto its punt workforce for the primary time this season — guard Donovan Jackson and back-up Josh Fryar.
The Buckeyes have been up 11 factors, and tight finish Mitch Rossi appeared to dash towards a primary down that might have given them the ball close to midfield. A cut up second earlier than the snap, Georgia coach Kirby Good referred to as a timeout. “It looked like a first down was going to be made,” Ohio State particular groups coach Parker Fleming stated. “They did a great job calling the timeout there.”
Within the second half of the Michigan recreation, Ohio State had an analogous play referred to as, however the lengthy snapper missed the decision and, with it, a large open lane for a primary down that might have modified the sport. The photographs of the missed alternative reside in Twitter lore, and Fleming might solely shake his head. “Different formation, a little different personnel,” he stated. “Similar scenario, I guess.”
And that is what occurs with traditional video games. The stakes get so excessive, that the momentum shifts violently. And the loser can solely dwell on all of the issues that might have been, as Stroud referenced a “heavy heart” leaving the sector. “It’s a loss for words,” Stroud stated, “when it comes down to one play.”
After a day of 179 complete factors, 2,016 complete yards and infinite hairpin turns of momentum, midnight struck, and the entire sport was near speechless. “That was special,” marveled UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett.
A day of semifinal video games that had traditionally left viewers bored and unhappy, led to dramatic fireworks. Lastly, the drama matched the stakes, and the game acquired a celebratory semifinal day that had lengthy been overdue.