Cincinnati will not finish the season undefeated.
Georgia kicker Jack Podlesny hit a career-long 53-yard field goal with two seconds left to give the No. 9 Bulldogs a 24-21 win over No. 8 Cincinnati in Friday’s Peach Bowl.
Podlesny’s kick came after Georgia (8-2) got the ball back with 1:28 to go and no timeouts. QB JT Daniels completed five passes on the game-winning drive with Georgia trailing 21-19.
The field goal put Georgia up 22-21 and the final two points came on a safety as Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder was sacked in the end zone on the game’s final play.
Georgia’s great second-half defense
Cincinnati (9-1) took a 21-10 lead in the second half when RB Jerome Ford ran 79 yards for a TD. It looked at that point like the Bearcats were going to roll over the Bulldogs and another Group of Five team was going to cap an undefeated season with a win over an SEC team in the Peach Bowl.
That did not happen thanks to Georgia’s defense.
The Bearcats had just 19 yards over its final six drives of the game with one fumble and five punts. Georgia sacked Ridder eight times throughout the course of the game and linebacker Azeez Ojulari was nearly unblockable in the fourth quarter.
Cincinnati still had a chance to seal the win with under two minutes to go, however. The Bearcats had a third-and-2 at their own 38 with 1:41 to go and Ridder had an open man down the field. But Georgia DB Tyrique Stevenson recognized where Ridder was going with the ball and shifted off his man to get in front of Alec Pierce and deflect the pass.
JT Daniels is 4-0 as Georgia’s starter
Judging a quarterback by his win-loss record is foolish. But it’s undeniable that Georgia has been a better team with the USC transfer starting at QB.
Daniels started each of Georgia’s last four games of the season after the Bulldogs lost to Florida and the team deemed him healthy enough to play after a knee injury in 2019. Georgia won each of those four games as the offense looked far more competent with him under center than it had previously.
Friday, Daniels was 26-of-38 passing for 392 yards and a TD and an interception. While he engineered that final game-winning drive, he also narrowly escaped an interception on the play before the field goal. Daniels had Kenny McIntosh open down the sideline but the throw was much closer to the safety on that side of the field than it should have been and could have been picked off.
Cincinnati is one of the nation’s best teams
Don’t devalue Cincinnati because of Friday’s loss. The Bearcats went toe-to-toe with Georgia and clearly showed they were a top-10 team. And had Podlesny’s kick failed to go through the uprights there would be a lot of postgame chatter about how Cincinnati deserved to be in the College Football Playoff.
At the very least, Cincinnati shouldn’t have entered the game at No. 8. The Bearcats were behind three Power Five teams with multiple losses in the final CFP rankings of the season because they played in the American Athletic Conference and had the end of their season ravaged by game cancellations due to COVID-19.
Throughout 2020 Cincinnati showed that it was the best Group of Five team since UCF was going undefeated under Scott Frost. The Bearcats’ defense was one of the best in the country and Ridder became one of the most productive quarterbacks in the country.
Ridder finished the game 24-of-37 passing for 206 yards and two touchdowns on Friday.
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