INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Stetson Bennett threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores in the first half as No. 1 Georgia demolished No. 3 TCU 65-7 Monday night to become the first team to win consecutive College Football Playoff national championships.
The Bulldogs (15-0) became the first repeat champs since Alabama went back-to-back a decade ago and left no doubt that they have replaced the Crimson Tide as the new bullies on the block.
TCU (13-2), the first Cinderella team of the playoff era, never had a chance against the Georgia juggernaut. Unlike Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal, the Bulldogs would not succumb to the Hypnotoads’ spell.
Georgia turned in one of the all-time beatdowns in a game that decided a national title, reminiscent of Nebraska running over Florida by 38 in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, USC’s 36-point rout of Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl and Alabama’s 28-point BCS championship blowout over Notre Dame in 2013.
But this was worse.
Too much talent. Too well-coached. Two straight titles for coach Kirby Smart’s ’Dawgs.
No team has ever scored more points in a national championship game, dating to the beginning of the BCS in 1998.
With 13:25 left in the fourth quarter, coach Kirby Smart called timeout in the middle of an offensive drive so Bennett could exit to hero’s ovation in the final game of his circuitous college career.
He finished 18 for 25 for 304 yards and four touchdown passes.
Georgia offensive linemen were snacking on chicken wings on the sideline as the game wound down.
Smart is now 81-15 in his first seven seasons at Georgia with two national titles. His mentor, Alabama coach Nick Saban, was 79-15 with three titles in his first seven seasons with the Tide.
The Bulldogs were a different kind of dominant this season: not quite as stingy on defense, but more explosive on offense.
Earlier in Smart’s tenure at his alma mater, Georgia fans worried about whether the former defensive coordinator for Saban would be able to build an offense to match this high-scoring era of college football.
Under third-year coordinator Todd Monken, the Bulldogs have become prolific, creative and diverse offensively. They picked TCU’s 3-3-5 defense from all angles.
Versatile tight end Brock Bowers had seven catches for 152 yards. Receiver Ladd McConkey caught two TDs. Georgia ran for 254 yards with seven players gaining at least 10.
The Bulldogs scored all six times they touched the ball in the first half. Twice Bennett ran it in himself; the former walk-on turned two-time national champion was barely touched on the two quarterback keepers.
He hit a wide-open McConkey for a 34-yard score in the first quarter, a perfectly executed play out of a bunched formation that had TCU’s defensive backs in disarray. Bennett’s 22-yard score to Adonai Mitchell was a higher degree of difficulty, dropped in over a defender who had tight coverage.
It looked a lot like the Bennett-to-Mitchell touchdown that gave Georgia a fourth-quarter lead it would not relinquish against Alabama in last year’s CFP title game.
Georgia vanquished the Tide to break a 41-year national title drought last season, avenging its only regular-season loss in the process.
There was no such drama against the upstart Horned Frogs.
This year the Bulldogs never had to worry about Alabama. They rolled through the SEC, survived Ohio State in a classic CFP semifinal and then emphatically stamped themselves as a burgeoning dynasty.
Bennett hit Brock Bowers for a 22-yard score with 10:52 left in the third quarter to make it 45-7. The sophomore tight end signaled touchdown while lying on the turf at Sofi Stadium. Bennett flashed a wide grin as he tapped helmets with one of his linemen.
Georgia’s famous bulldog mascot UGA could not make cross-country trip to root in his team, but it still felt a little like Sanford Stadium in SoCal.
Many of the TCU fans cleared out with more then half the fourth quarter left, choosing to venture out into a rainy and chilly night rather than watch any more of the massive mismatch.
Heisman Trophy runner-up Max Duggan threw two first-half interceptions in the final game of his roller-coaster TCU career.
A four-year starter who never played in a bowl before this season, Duggan led TCU on one of the most improbable runs in college football history. Unranked nationally after a losing season and picked seventh in the Big 12 for Sonny Dykes’ first year as coach, the Frogs won nine games by 10 or fewer points. They were within a victory of the program’s first national title since 1938.