Georgia took the lead in overtime but didn't have a good reason to feel comfortable about it.
Alabama's offense started hitting its stride in the fourth quarter, led by freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who came off of the bench cold in relief of starter Jalen Hurts. Taking the first possession on offense, Georgia lost nine yards but got a 51-yard field goal from place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship.
Then on first-and-10, outside linebacker Davin Bellamy and defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter burst through the Alabama offensive line and sacked Tagovailoa for a 16-yard loss. The Georgia fans roared as it seemed like Alabama was suddenly in a terrible spot. The Crimson Tide were all of a sudden backed up on their own 41-yard line.
"We took them out of field goal range and we had a chance to go ahead and close it out," Ledbetter said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Telegraph
Ledbetter's next three sentences summed up Georgia's 26-23 overtime loss to Alabama in the national championship.
"And we just didn't," Ledbetter said. "It's a simple fact. We didn't do it."
On second-and-26, Alabama, almost in a play of desperation, went with four verticals. The Crimson Tide weren't trying to chip away. They wanted it all. Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith was on the left side of the formation with Georgia cornerback Malkom Parrish matched up against him.
Smith said he felt confident about what the Tide had drew up for this particular play, despite the down and distance.
"When they called the play I looked at Tua and I said, 'Trust me,' " Smith said. "It was everybody making plays. No matter what receiver or what quarterback."
When Tagovailoa took the snap, Alabama slid its protection, which cut Bellamy off from having a good angle to rush the passer. Instead, Bellamy said he decided to change his course of action to prevent a scramble from taking place.
With good protection, Tagovailoa was able to look to his right long enough to freeze Georgia safety Dominick Sanders. The Bulldogs were in a Cover-2 look, and based on where Tagovailoa's eyes were, Sanders appeared to think he was about to throw to Alabama's right side of the field.
By keeping Sanders in the middle, and noticing there were two safeties deep, Tagovailoa realized that he probably had Smith deep down the field open. Sure enough, when he looked back to his left, Smith was behind Parrish without a safety over the top. By the time Sanders reversed his field it was too late. Tagovailoa delivered a perfectly-thrown ball and Smith caught it for the game-winner.
"I looked back out and he was wide open," Tagovailoa said. "Smitty was wide open so I hit him and here we are now, thank God."
Neither Sanders or Parrish were spotted when reporters were able to enter the Georgia locker room after the game ended. Bellamy said Alabama's two-play possession was a gut-wrenching way for Georgia's season to end.
For a brief moment, everything was pointing Georgia's way with such a major defensive play on first down. But that emotional high Georgia felt was stripped away just one play later.
"You stop them right there and it's third-and-26 and it's a whole 'nother ball-game," Bellamy said. "Sometimes that's how the ball rolls. Yeah, man. Damn."