He came into the national championship as the other Ridley.
Having caught only eight passes for 136 yards through Georgia’s first 14 games, he wasn’t expected to be a big factor on offense. His brother, Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley, was the one who many thought would be the family’s lone difference-maker in the Crimson Tide’s thrilling 26-23 win over Georgia in overtime.
But Riley Ridley, Calvin’s younger brother, came up big in a losing effort. He saved his best game for the end of the year by catching six passes for 82 yards. The catch total was a single-game best through his two years with the program. His yardage total was second only to the 89 he posted as a freshman against Auburn.
While Riley turned into a go-to factor for Georgia Monday night, he was still saddened, just like the rest of his teammates, that the Bulldogs were unable to pull out a victory.
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“It was big that we were able to make plays down the field,” Riley said. “It was big we were able to run the ball. It hurts. It’s sick. From here, we have to keep moving forward. We played a very talented team. We just came up short.”
Ridley had some big plays a year ago in his first season. Most notably, he caught a 47-yard touchdown from Jacob Eason against Tennessee in 2016 with 10 seconds left to play, which, in the moment, appeared to be a game-winner. Instead, the Volunteers heaved a desperation pass that was caught for a touchdown to stun the Bulldogs.
This season, however, Ridley has played in a rotational role. Quarterback Jake Fromm has thrown mostly to senior receiver Javon Wims and junior receiver Terry Godwin. Ridley started six games this season but was used primarily as third or fourth option on offense. But entering the championship game, Fromm had a feeling Ridley would break out and put in a good performance.
“I spoke to Riley before the game and I said, ‘Man, I feel it. I feel like you’re going to have a great game,” Fromm said. “I’m so proud of him and the way he played. He definitely rose to the occasion.”
Godwin said he could sense that Ridley, a sophomore, was close to having a game like this.
“It was a matter of time,” Godwin said. “Riley is a sure-handed guy. He’s a great route runner. He’s physical. That DB, whoever is guarding him, is going to have a hard time guarding him.”
For most of the game, Riley out-shined his older brother Calvin, a junior who could potentially decide in the coming days to leave Alabama for the NFL draft. While Riley had six catches for 82 yards, Calvin caught four passes for only 32 yards.
But one of those four grabs was more important than any of Riley’s.
Down 20-13, and with Alabama facing a fourth-and-4 with less than five minutes to go in the game, Calvin caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to tie the game. Ultimately, the game went to overtime with Alabama coming out on top.
When the game ended, the two brothers embraced each other amid Alabama’s celebration and Georgia’s deflated disbelief.
“I told him that I love him and congratulations,” Riley said. “His team kept fighting.”