By Michael Kinney
PASADENA – Coming into the Rose Bowl, the matchup everyone wanted to talk about was Georgia’s defense against Oklahoma’s offense. That was going to settle who would win the game in most experts’ eyes.
But what no one counted on was an offensive explosion for both teams. The Sooners and Bulldogs combined for more than 1,000 yards of total offense. But what no one really saw coming was that despite all the yards and points, the outcome may have been determined by a special teams blunder.
From the outset of the Rose Bowl, it seemed like Oklahoma was in complete control.
Baker Mayfield showed no signs of any illness on the Sooners first possession of the game. He led Oklahoma them on a six play, 80-yard drive in just over two minutes. It ended with Mayfield connecting with Marquise Brown in the back of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
However, the Bulldogs responded with their own six-play drive and touchdown to tie the game with 8:27 left in the first quarter.
On the Sooners next possession, it was Rodney Anderson and the offensive line that did the heavy lifting. Anderson finished the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run to put OU up 14-7.
Anderson wasn’t done there. He added a 55-yard touchdown run. The run put him over a 100 yards rushing with 14:12 left in the first half. He finished the night with a career high 201 rushing yards.
Coming into the game, many believed it was a foregone conclusion that Georgia would only have to worry about Mayfield. But Anderson was the driving force early for the Sooners. His running kept the Bulldogs off balance and dictated the pace of the game.
However, Oklahoma’s defense had its own issues stopping the Dawg’s ground and pound running game. Right after Anderson’s touchdown, Georgia responded with a Sony Michel 75 yard TD run to close the gap to 21-14.
The Sooners scored 10 straight points to take a 31-14 advantage. That included a wide receiver reverse pass back to Mayfield, who was all alone in the corner of the endzone.
The touchdown was the 10th play in a 90-yard drive. It looked like the Sooners couldn’t be stopped and were on their way to blowing out Georgia.
But that is when the game turned on a dime. OU kicker Austin Seibert attempted to squib kick on the kick-off. Instead of running out the final seconds of the clock, it went directly to a Georgia player on the front line. This allowed Bulldog kicker Rodrigo Blankenship to kick a Rose Bowl record 55-yard field goal as time expired to cut the deficit to 31-17 at halftime.
“I don’t know that we necessarily lost momentum,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “That probably gave them a little bit of juice. They were able to steal three points on us. It was a good call. And Austin’s been great with those. He just didn’t hit it well and ended up going right to their guy, which is the one thing you can’t do and we did.”
Georgia outscored the Sooners 14-0 in the third quarter to knot the game at 31-31. Oklahoma played one of its worst quarters on both sides of the football and the Bulldogs took advantage.
The Georgia surge continued into the fourth when Mayfield threw an interception that bounced off the fingertips of Mark Andrews and returned to the four-yard line. It was the first turnover of the game by either team.
Two plays later the Bulldogs Fromm threw a touchdown pass to Javon Wims to give Georgia its first lead of the game with 13:57 left. The Bulldogs scored 24 unanswered points and had Oklahoma reeling.
Just when it looked like the Sooners were out of it, Mayfield engineered a game-tying scoring drive. Then the defense came up with its biggest moment with a Steven Parker fumble return for a score.
Oklahoma had the lead with 6:52 left.
But that ended up being was too much time. Nick Chubb scored with 55 seconds left to send the contest into overtime.
“There is not one play that lost this game for us or won it for Georgia,” Riley said. “There was a ton of good plays on both sides of the ball, and they made one more than we did.”