MIAMI GARDENS, Fla., Dec. 31 (UPI) — Georgia mangled Michigan’s running game, capitalized off turnovers and exploded early on offense to earn a dominant 34-11 College Football Playoff semifinal win Friday in the Orange Bowl.
Bulldogs senior quarterback Stetson Bennett completed 21 of 31 passes for 307 yards and three scores and was named Orange Bowl Offensive MVP for his effort at Hard Rock Stadium.
“This game is all about how well you play,” Bennett told reporters. “I didn’t go out and play well in spite of people. I worked hard throughout the last few weeks because my teammates needed me to do that.”
The victory sets up a rematch between Georgia and Southeastern Conference rival Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. The Bulldogs face the top-ranked Tide on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis.
The No. 3 Bulldogs forced three turnovers and topped the No. 2 Wolverines 515 to 325 in total yards in Friday’s win. Running back James Cook totaled 141 yards from scrimmage and a score on 10 touches.
“I think obviously it’s very disappointing right now,” Wolverines quarterback Cade McNamara said. “We gave everything we got, and we got beat.”
Bennett used a fake handoff to fool the Wolverines defense and threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brock Bowers to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead 4:11 into the game.
The Bulldogs opened up the playbook and used trickery to double their advantage about six minutes later. Running back Kenny McIntosh took a handoff from Bennett on the play. He then looked left and tossed an 18-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Adonai Mitchell.
Jack Podlesny made a 43-yard field goal to push the Bulldogs lead to 17 points 2:34 into the second quarter.
Wolverines kicker Jake Moody answered with a 36-yard field goal on the next drive, but Podlesny countered with another field goal on the following possession.
Bennett connected with Jermaine Burton on the right flank about two minutes later for a 57-yard touchdown. That score gave the Bulldogs a 27-3 halftime edge.
Neither team scored in the third quarter. Bennett got the Bulldogs back to the end zone with a 39-yard touchdown pass to running back James Cook 3:49 into the fourth.
Freshman quarterback J.J. McCarthy got the Wolverines into the end zone for their lone score with a 35-yard touchdown toss to wide receiver Andrel Anthony with 4:25 remaining. The Wolverines also completed a two-point conversion for the final points of the game.
The Bulldogs ran out the clock on the final possession.
“It was a heck of a football fight,” Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh said. “They got the better end of it, but I thought it was physical on both sides of the ball.
“Their execution on the perimeter was extremely good. They played well. Got to give them credit for that.”
McCarthy completed 7 of 17 passes for 131 yards and a score. McNamara completed 11 of 19 passes for 106 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked four times.
Bulldogs senior defensive back Derion Kendrick logged two interceptions to claim Orange Bowl Defensive MVP honors.
Georgia (13-1) battles Alabama (13-1) in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at 8 p.m. EST Jan. 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The matchup airs on ESPN.
“We get to focus our energy on a really good football team,” Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. “That’s where we will turn our head and focus our attention on now.”