PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith expected to make the Rose Bowl his home after originally committing to UCLA.
In his only game at the fabled stadium, Smith still made an impression by earning defensive player of the game honors in the Bulldogs’ 54-48 double-overtime win over Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
Despite giving up 31 points in the first half, more than Georgia had allowed in any of its first 13 games, the Butkus Award winner led a resilient defensive response in the Rose Bowl on Monday night and finished with a team-leading 11 tackles.
Smith came up with his biggest plays in overtime. Smith and Reggie Carter stopped wide receiver Jordan Smallwood short of the marker on a third-and-2 run in the first overtime, forcing the Sooners to kick a field goal.
In the second overtime, Smith tackled running back Rodney Anderson for a loss of 2 yards on a second-down reception, which led to Oklahoma attempting a 27-yard field goal that was blocked by linebacker Lorenzo Carter.
Sony Michel had a 27-yard touchdown run on the second play of the ensuing Georgia possession, and the Bulldogs advanced to the championship game in Atlanta on Jan. 8.
“Man, we stunk it up and played really bad,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “If it was a measure of a heart attack, I’d be on the Richter scale pretty high.”
Georgia allowed one offensive touchdown in the second half and limited the offense directed by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield to 171 yards in the final two quarters and overtime.
Smith said the Bulldogs played with more passion in the second half.
“I don’t exactly know what the feeling was,” Smith said. “I just knew it wasn’t playing to our style and whatever that was. We played a little better in the second half. But not to our standard.”
Even so, Georgia is one win away from its first national title since 1980.
“We didn’t play the way we were capable of, but the best news is we get a chance to play again,” Smart said.