Georgia turns special teams into positive

Georgia linebacker Lorenzo Carter (7) blocks a field goal attempted by Oklahoma kicker Austin Seibert (43) during overtime in the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. Georgia won 54-48. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

PASADENA, Calif. — A quick snag on a squib kick, a long field goal and a hand on a field goal attempt turned around a specials team effort for Georgia that ultimately played in its favor.

 

Similar to their overall play, the Bulldogs started the Rose Bowl on a poor note on special teams with inconsistent kicking and punting. As the tide turned into the third quarter, so did their efforts in all phases of special teams, and it led to one of the game’s biggest moments.

Most of the first half was summed up by a deep punt into the end zone, a 48-yard field goal missed left and a 30-yard punt to Oklahoma’s 42-yard line as the Sooners led by as much as 17 in the second quarter.

Georgia’s defense struggled to stop Oklahoma’s high-flying offense and trailed 31-14 late in the second.

After an Oklahoma touchdown put the Sooners ahead by that score, they elected a squib kick in the closing seconds of the half. Tae Crowder snagged it on the front receiving line and gave Georgia the ball at midfield.

“Just try not to kick it and hit somebody,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said at halftime. “You know, he just hit a bad kick, so we just wanted to squib it down there and not give them a chance for a return, and we just didn’t execute it well.”

After a quick pass and timeout, Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship booted a 55-yard field goal to trail 31-17 at the half. It marked the longest field goal in Rose Bowl history.

“It was really great,” Blankenship said. “I didn’t know what to do with myself. I started jumping around and bouncing around everywhere, trying to be a little bit of a spark for the team.”

From there, Georgia turned its special teams into a strength as its defense began to slow down Oklahoma and its offense made its move.

Cameron Nizialek kicked a 61-yard punt that was downed at Oklahoma’s 2 midway through the third, and he added a 58-yard punt early in the fourth to halt the Sooners. Blankenship booted three consecutive kickoffs to the goal line that Oklahoma was forced to return, and none were carried past the 18.

Through all those efforts, Georgia scored 24 unanswered points and took a 38-31 lead late in the third quarter.

After Oklahoma rallied to get the game to overtime at 45, Blankenship kicked a 38-yard field goal to begin the extra period. Oklahoma matched the Bulldogs with a field goal to get to second overtime.

But the Sooners’ next attempt was blocked by Lorenzo Carter to set up Sony Michel’s dramatic 27-yard touchdown run to win the game.

Nizialek averaged 48 yards over six punts and pinned three inside the 20, while Blankenship kicked two key field goals. Georgia limited Oklahoma’s returners to minimal yardage, as well.

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