PASADENA, CA – The Granddaddy of them All had never seen one like this. It was an instant classic. Unfortunately, as has happened before, the Sooners were on the wrong end of it, falling 54-48 in double overtime to Georgia in the national semifinals here at the Rose Bowl.
Baker Mayfield, in his final game as a Sooner, went 23-35 with two TDs and one huge pick, while also catching a TD pass on a gadget play. Rodney Anderson shredded the Georgia defense for 203 yards on 26 carries and a pair of TDs. Unfortunately, while Anderson was the game’s leading rusher, the Bulldogs’ dynamic duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel had massive days of their own, with Michel going for 181 yards and three TDs on only 11 carries, and Chubb gaining 145 yards and two TDs on 145 carries. Marquise Brown led the Sooner receivers with eight catches for 114 yards and a TD. CeeDee Lamb had six for 66, Mark Andrews had four for 52, and Dmitri Flowers added three for 53.
The Sooners won the toss and deferred. Georgia picked up 21 yards on their first play, but only three on the next three plays, and punted into the end zone. After Anderson was stuffed on first down, Mayfield hit Dmitri Flowers for 16 yards, then 26 more. Andrews caught one for eight, and a personal foul on Georgia tacked on another 15, giving OU first down at the UGA 15. Two plays later, Mayfield hit Brown in the right corner of the end zone for the TD and a 7-0 lead with 11:31 to play in the first quarter.
UGA would answer with a 75 yard drive in only six plays. They only went to second down twice, slashing through the Sooner defense for 20 and 25 yard runs and 14 and 13 yard passes, the latter of which was good for a TD that tied the game at 7 with 8:27 to play in the first quarter.
OU took over on the 25 after a touchback and picked right up where they left off. Mayfield hit Brown for nine yard, then Anderson ran for three. Two plays later, Anderson busted off a 45 yard run to the Georgia 18. He carried for nine yards on each of the next two plays, and the TD gave the Sooners the lead back at 14-7 with 6:56 to play in the quarter.
Georgia moved the ball to the Sooner 31 on their next possession before stalling. A field goal attempt from 48 yards out was wide left, and OU took over at their 31. After Anderson lost two yards on first down, Mayfield hit Andrews for 11 yards and a first down. Anderson then squeezed through a hole in the middle of the line and busted out to the left and down the sideline for a 41-yard score, and OU looked to be taking control at 21-7 with 14:12 to play in the first half.
The lead wouldn’t last long, as Sony Michel, aided by the Sooners busting an assignment and vacating the middle of the field, went untouched 75 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive. The score made it 21-14 with 14:00 to play in the first half.
OU moved to the Georgia 12 on the next possession, powered by a 29-yard connection from Mayfield to Andrews and a 14-yard completion to CeeDee Lamb. However, Mayfield was sacked on third down, and the Sooners had to settle for a field goal. The score was 24-14 with 9:12 to play in the first half.
After two Georgia punts sandwiched around the first Sooner punt of the day, OU took over on their own 10. Trey Sermon got things going on the first play of the drive with a 31-yard run out to the 41. Two plays later, Mayfield hit Brown for 45 yards to the Georgia 13. Three plays later, on first and goal from the Bulldog two, Flowers was stuffed for a four-yard loss. Mayfield then hit Jeff Badet for four yards, setting up third and goal from the two. After a time out, Lincoln Riley dialed up a gadget play, as Lamb took the ball coming right on a double reverse and passed to a wide-open Mayfield in the back of the end zone for the TD and a 31-14 lead with six seconds left in the first half.
It looked like that would be the score going to the locker room, but that was when things started going sideways. Austin Seibert’s attempted squib kick was not hit well and was fielded by one of the Georgia up men only 12 yards upfield, at the Sooner 47. With only six seconds left, Georgia threw short for a nine-yard gain instead of throwing up a Hail Mary. A 55-yard field goal on the last play of the half was good, and it was 31-17 instead of 31-14 going into the locker room. Those three points, which didn’t look to mean much at the time, would prove huge at the end of the evening.
The Sooners took the opening kickoff of the second half looking to punch in a TD for a three-score lead and really put their foot on the Bulldogs’ neck. Instead, it went just the opposite way. OU went three and out and a nice punt return gave Georgia the ball at midfield. Nick Chubb scored from there on the Bulldogs’ first offensive play of the second half, helped by horrifically bad Sooner tackling. The score made it 31-24 with 12;25 to go in the third quarter.
Both teams then exchanged three and outs, but Georgia got the better of the exchange, punting the Sooners down to their own two-yard line. OU then mustered its first real offense of the second half, moving the ball out to their own 40 after a 25-yard Anderson run. However, Mayfield was then sacked on consecutive plays by a resurgent Georgia defense, and the Sooners had to punt from their own 24.
Georgia took over on their own 29 and moved the ball quickly to the Sooner 38 behind 11 and 20 yard pass plays. Michel then exploited a massive gap in the Sooner defense and went untouched 38 yards for the score to tie the game at 31 with 41 seconds to play in the third quarter.
The Sooners again went three and out, and things looked to be going downhill fast. They really started rolling downhill when Seibert hit a bad punt and Georgia took over on their own 41. Seven plays later, the Bulldogs were in the end zone again, and the game was tied at 31 with 41 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Things got worse, and quickly. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Mayfield airmailed a pass that was picked off and returned to the Sooner four-yard line. Two plays later, Georgia had their first lead of the game at 38-31 with 13:57 to play in the game. After OU went three and out again, it was left to the defense to keep the Sooners in the game. They did just that, as Kenneth Murray sacked Jake Fromm on third down to force a punt.
Mayfield and the offense took advantage of the opportunity. From the OU 12, Anderson ran for 15, then two plays later, Mayfield hit Lamb for 36 to the Georgia 37. Mayfield then ran around the left side for 22 yards and Anderson carried for four to set up second and six from the Georgia 11. On the next play, Mayfield scrambled before finding Flowers in the back of the end zone for the score to tie the game at 38 with 8:47 to play in the game.
It was then the defense’s turn to make another big play. On second and nine from the Georgia 46 on the ensuing possession, Michel carried left and was strung out to the sideline. Caleb Kelly knocked the ball loose and Steven Parker picked it up, tightroped the sideline, and took it 46 yards for a TD to give the Sooners a shocking 45-38 lead with 6:52 to play in the game.
After UGA went three and out, the Sooners took over at their own 23 with 5:16 to play in the game. Three first downs would have won it. But it was not to be. Anderson carried for five yards and Mayfield for two. Then Anderson was held to no gain on third and three. He was clearly face masked on the play, but there was no flag. Seibert again punted short, and Georgia took over on their own 41 with 3:22 to play in the game.
15 and 17 yard completions quickly moved the ball to the Sooner 23. The defense stiffened and put Georgia in third and 10 from there. However, a 16-yard completion gave the Bulldogs first and goal from the seven. A pass interference flag moved it to the two, then Chubb took it in from there on a wildcat play to tie the game at 45 with 55 seconds to play.
That seemed plenty of time for the Sooners to move for a winning field goal. Mayfield hit Brown for 12 yards on first down, then threw incomplete to Brown. Anderson carried for eight to the Sooner 45, setting up third and two. After an OU timeout with 29 seconds left, instead of trying just for the first down, Mayfield looked for Anderson on the wheel route and the ball fell incomplete. OU punted back to Georgia with 17 seconds to play. UGA took a knee to take it to overtime.
OU won the toss and elected to play defense. Georgia picked up only four yards on three plays and settled for a field goal to make it 48-45. OU could win it with a TD.
On first down in the bottom of the OT, Anderson ran for four yards, then Mayfield hit Brown for another four. Jordan Smallwood took a jet sweep for a yard to make it fourth and one at the UGA 16. After a timeout by each team, and what appeared to be serious thought about going for it, the Sooners elected to kick a field goal. Seibert was good from 33, and it was 48-48 going into the second overtime.
OU went first in the second OT, and for some reason they did not switch ends of the field down to the end where most of the Sooner fans were. Anderson ran for five yards, then Mayfield threw incomplete. On third and five, Mayfield was picked off in the end zone, but Georgia was offside, erasing the pick and giving the Sooners a first down at the 15. Kyler Murray ran for no gain on an option play, then a swing pass to Anderson lost two yards. A screen to Brown picked up seven, and it was fourth and five from the 10. Seibert’s field goal attempt from 27 yards was blocked, and the Sooners were in a world of hurt, with Georgia needing only to score to win.
As it turned out, the blocked field goal wouldn’t really matter. After the Sooner defense threw Georgia for a two-yard loss on first down, Michel took it around left end for 27 yards and the winning TD. Georgia 54, OU 48.
And so, the 2017 season concluded in the Arroyo Seco with a shootout that the Sooners uncharacteristically were unable to pull out. To make matters worse, there will be an SEC national champ once again, as Alabama throttled Clemson in a boring Sugar Bowl to set up the national title game in Atlanta next Monday. That might just be the thing needed to push the playoff to eight teams.
Regardless, this year the playoff was four, and the Sooners once again went out in the semis. We are tired of cancelling our national title game reservations before leaving the semifinal stadium, but it is what it is. It will not always be that way, and we will be there when the payoff arrives, and it will be that much sweeter for the journey. Lincoln Riley will lead this team to a national title, and in the not-too-distant future. 254 days to kickoff against Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic on September ¿.
In the meantime, there’s lots more Sooner fun to be had, starting at the LNC Wednesday night, where Aggy will get their first taste of Trae Young. We don’t anticipate they will like it much. See you there, and Boomer Sooner from Pasadena.