The sport was over, the championship clinched. Kelee Ringo had simply picked off the ultimate vital move of Bryce Younger’s good season, run it again 79 yards, and the Georgia Bulldogs have been going to finish a 41-year drought, would lastly escape the grip of Alabama’s band of crimson bogeymen.
Now, , the second lastly overtook a 23-year-old soccer participant named Stetson Bennett IV. Suddenly Bennett — the very best story on this school soccer season — started to weep on the sideline. He appeared on the scoreboard and noticed the proof of what he and his teammates had carried out — Georgia 33, Alabama 18 — and that’s all it took.
“It simply hit me,” he would say a couple of minutes later, confetti falling throughout him, a younger boy’s dream formally springing to life in shiny, vivid shade and deafening decision. “Good Lord. Wow.”
As a boy in Blackshear, Ga., Bennett had dreamed the dream so many children in so many forgotten quarters of the Peach State do: main the Bulldogs to glory for the primary time since Herschel Walker was a freshman. He has spent a lot of his profession in Athens both undesirable, neglected or underappreciated.
That may now not be the case.
Stetson Fleming Bennett IV won’t ever once more should pay for a meal, for a beer, for a bottle of wine anyplace inside the state borders. This one will probably be ceaselessly. This one will probably be everlasting. The Bulldogs appeared like they have been about to lose one other massive sport to the Crimson Tide, and Bennett was a giant purpose why.
After which — in what felt like an eyeblink — the sport turned the wrong way up.
Bennett turned it the wrong way up.
“I wasn’t going to be the rationale we misplaced,” Bennett mentioned. “I wasn’t going to let that occur.”
That was the darkest second. That’s when the Georgia faction of sold-out Lucas Oil Stadium started to marvel if perhaps they weren’t destined to spend yet another season adopted by a darkish cloud. The Bulldogs clung to a 13-12 lead, early within the fourth, the sport a throwback rock struggle between the SEC’s two most glamorous packages.
Then, Bennett was pressured within the pocket. He tried to do away with the ball, and it certain appeared in actual time — and on quite a lot of replays — that he had merely thrown an incomplete move. However the officers dominated in any other case: They known as it a fumble. Alabama’s Brian Department recovered together with his foot a millimeter inbounds. And 4 performs later Younger discovered tight finish Cameron Latu in the long run zone.
It was there that you may virtually hear school soccer settle again onto its axis: Bama was forward. Absolutely, Nick Saban’s crew would work out a technique to end off his eighth nationwide championship, seventh at Alabama. All they needed to do was comprise Bennett, who has spent his total profession listening to individuals pine for another person, anybody else, apart from No. 13.
It was on Bennett now. All of it. Sport. Season. Championship.
“I needed to. In any other case, we have been going to lose,” he mentioned. “I mentioned, ‘I’ve obtained to repair this.’ ”
He mounted it. You wager he did. The Bulldogs obtained the ball again, and Bennett began throwing the ball with extra confidence than he had all evening: 18 yards to Jermaine Burton; 10 yards to Kenny McIntosh. He focused Burton once more, and a move interference introduced them 15 yards nearer. A sack pushed them again to the Bama 40 — Bennett held onto the ball for pricey life.
And so it was: second-and-18. Simply over eight minutes left. Bennett started his profession at Georgia as a most popular walk-on, ran the scout group and shared a locker. He transferred to a junior school in Mississippi. He was recruited to play at Louisiana, however then Kirby Sensible made a scholarship provide. He would arrive buried, once more, on the depth chart. Sensible stored recruiting over him. Bennett stayed. In his coronary heart, he at all times was the child from Blackshear, born to be a Bulldog.
And now, he dropped again. There was a flag — Alabama had jumped offside, free play. There was a key block. Bennett heaved the ball so far as he might. And about 49 yards away, the ball dropped into Adonai Mitchell’s arms behind the top zone. Georgia had the lead. Bennett added one other brief TD move one possession later.
Then, Ringo picked off Younger.
And the second lastly tackled Stetson Bennett more durable than any Alabama defender had all evening. In that second, it was unimaginable to not paraphrase the well-known line from Hoosiers — “That is for all of the walk-ons who by no means obtained an opportunity …”
Solely this was actual life. And Bennett mentioned it higher.
“I hope it offers somebody a bit hope,” he mentioned. “Maintain your mouth shut, work arduous. Life is hard. Work by it.”