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Podlesny Ties Peach Bowl Record with Game-Winning Kick

Posted on January 1, 2021 at 3:50 PM

  Article by Dan Tortora 

  A new year...

  A new beginning...

  A new hope.

  Here in Atlanta, Georgia, the country watched as the first college football bowl game of the new year took place.

  The undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats (9-0) of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) were pitted against the Georgia Bulldogs (7-2) of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in front of a crowd of 15,301.

  On the line beyond just the Bearcats was the name of the AAC, a conference long disrespected by the College Football Playoff Committee since its institution.

  Cincinnati came into this game having won all of their games, defeating more than two Top-25 nationally-ranked teams, and winning their conference championship.

  The College Football Playoff Committee stated that the Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0) of the Big Ten Conference were deserving of a place in the nation's final four after achieving all of the same things that Cincinnati had.

  Well, the Bearcats actually defeated more Top-25 nationally-ranked teams this season.

  Georgia's two losses this season came to the Alabama Crimson Tide and Florida Gators, both inside SEC play, both Top-8 nationally-ranked teams at the time of play. The Bulldogs' wins over Top-25 nationally-ranked teams came against the Auburn Tigers, Tennessee Volunteers, and on the road at the Missouri Tigers.

  Each team began the game by punting the ball away, Georgia first after Cincinnati won the coin toss and deferred to the second half.

  The Bulldogs would punt away their second possession as well, but punter Jake Camarda would misfire, sending the ball hooking right for a four-yard punt that placed the Bearcats on the Bulldogs' 42-yard line to start their second drive of the contest.

  Cincinnati would capitalize off of this mishap with a 14-yard pass play from quarterback Desmond Ridder to wide receiver Alec Pierce, giving the Bearcats a 7-0 lead at the 4:38 mark of the first quarter.

  Georgia would respond with a 51-yard pass play from quarterback JT Daniels to wide receiver George Pickens on their third drive of the game. 

  Two plays later, Bearcats cornerback Coby Bryant would intercept Daniels in the end zone with one hand. Pickens would punch the ball out of Bryant's hands while Bryant was in the end zone. Linebacker Ty Van Fossen would recover the fumble by the goal-line and fall into the end zone.

  After review, the officials upheld that it was indeed an interception and fumble recovery and placed Cincinnati at their own one-yard line, with 3:29 on the first-quarter game clock, stating that Van Fossen's knee was down there before going into the end zone.

  But after all of this, the Bearcats would come away with no points, gaining a mere two yards to their own three-yard line, punting away their third possession of the game to their own 44-yard line.

  Pickens, hungry for the end zone and coming off of his aforementioned 51-yard gain on the last drive by the Bulldogs, got the Bulldogs into the end zone this time, scoring on the team's fourth possession of the first quarter, this being a 14-yard receiving play to tie the game at 7-7 with 29 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

  At the end of one quarter, the Georgia had punted twice, throw an interception, and scored a touchdown.

  Cincinnati had a touchdown, two punts, and a third punt that came from their drive that went from the end of the first quarter to the beginning of the second.

  The Bulldogs would send their first drive of the second quarter away on their third punt of the game.

  On 3rd-&-4, Bearcats' running back Jerome Ford would take the carry the four yards needed and the officials would uphold the first-down call after reviewing the play, giving the Bearcats a new set of downs at the Bulldogs' 30-yard line.

  Ridder would get hurried later in the drive and chose to throw the ball out-of-bounds, setting up a 33-yard attempt by kicker Cole Smith that would hook to the left and outside of the left goalpost.

  The last field goal that Smith attempted ended up being the game-winner of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane as time expired, giving Cincinnati their first AAC Championship game title ever.

  From one Smith to another, sttarting at their own 20-yard line after the missed field goal by Smith, the Bulldogs got a massive 55-yard gain off of the arm of Daniels and the hands of wide receiver Arian Smith downfield, who had gotten out in front of three Bearcat defenders, moving the Bulldogs to the Bearcats' 25-yard line.

  Unlike Cincinnati, Georgia would make their 30+ yard field-goal attempt when kicker Jack Podlesny ended this drive with a make from 37 yards out, giving Georiga their first lead of the game, 10-7, with 3:46 left on the first-half game clock.

  The Bearcats replied with a big catch from wide receiver Michael Young, Jr., on 3rd-&-5 that gave Cincinnati a 25-yard gain immediately after a false-start penalty.

  Ridder would turn what could have been a major loss into positive yardage when he backpeddled and eventually rolled out left, finding Ford downfield for an 11-yard gain to the Bulldogs' four-yard line. However, Cincinnati offensive lineman James Hudson would get flagged for a personal foul, costing the Bearcats 15 yards, sending them back to the Bulldogs' 19-yard line. Adding more of a hit, literally, Hudson was ejected on the play for targeting.

  Cincinnati would stay poised after the penalty and loss of their lineman, and Ridder would send the ball to tight end Josh Whyle for what would be upheld as an 11-yard touchdown, swinging the lead back to the Bearcats, 14-10, with six seconds before the half.

  With 30 minutes in the books, Cincinnati had attained more first downs, 12 to seven, but Georgia had amounted more offensive yards, 242 to 198. Neither team ran the ball well, with Cincinnati gaining 28 yards on the ground to Georgia's 18.   

  The Bearcats ran more offensive plays in the first half, 35 to 26. Cincinnati had 22 pass attempts to 13 rushes, while Georgia had 17 pass attempts to nine rushes.

  Cincinnati possessed the ball for 16:54 of the first half to 13:06 by Georgia.

  Red-zone efficiency was the same for both teams, as they each went 2-for-3, with the Bearcats coming away with two touchdowns and the Bulldogs with a touchdown and a field goal.

  Coming out of the locker room, it took Cincinnati just two plays on their first drive to get into the end zone for the third time in the game, as Ford truly was the Ferrari, carrying the ball for a 79-yard score to advance the Bearcats out to a 21-10 lead just 49 seconds into the second half.

  The Bearcats' defense would force two fumbles and sack Daniels twice on the Bulldogs' first possession of the new half, with the latter fumble coming from Daniels, forced by linebacker Jarell White and recovered by defensive tackle Ethan Tucky on Cincinnati's own 23-yard line, keeping the Bulldogs out of the red zone and, more importantly, from coming away with any points.

  Cincinnati's offense would not capitalize, however, and they would send the ball away on their first punt of the half.

  Georgia would run 20 plays and gain 96 yards in the third quarter, but would record a single point.

  The Bulldogs would do better almost immediately in the final quarter, scoring just 1:40 in. Georgia obtained this possession thanks to outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari forcing Ridder to fumble and fellow outside linebacker Adam Anderson recovering the ball at the Bearcats' 25-yard line. It took Georgia just two plays to get into the end zone for their first score of the second half, when running back Zamir White ran it in from nine yards out.

  A missed two-point conversion kept the score at 21-16 in favor of Cincinnati with 13:20 to go in the game.

  On 4th-&-6 from their own 29, the Bearcats looked like they would be punting it away.

  Head Coach Luke Fickell and the staff had other ideas, and punter James Smith ran the ball for a nine-yard gain and a new set of downs.

  This gutsy play call would unfortunately for the Bearcats be on a drive where Cincinnati would eventually actually punt the ball away, giving the Bulldogs a chance with a little over nine minutes to play.

  Back-to-back completions from Daniels to wide receiver Kearis Jackson (42) and Pickens (23), respectively, would open up the drive with 65 yards gained for the Bulldogs.

  Linebacker Joel Dublanko would sack Daniels shortly after for a loss of nine yards and a fumble. Georgia would recover the fumble and go on to score off of a 32-yard field goal by Podlesny to bring it to a two-point game, 21-19 Cincinnati with 6:43 remaining in the game.

  Cincinnati would false start on 3rd-&-2, moving back five yards and then Ojulari  would get to the feet of Ridder and trip him up, causing a lack of 12 yards on the sack and forcing the Bearcats to punt inside of five minutes to play.

  The Bearcats' defense came up huge on the following Bulldogs' possession, preventing big yardage pickups following a couple receptions, getting the ball back with 2:59 to play.

  Cincinnati opted to punt on 4th-&-2 from their own 40, giving the ball to Georgia at their own 20 with 1:28 to go in the contest. Georgia began the drive with no timeouts to use.

  Daniels begins the Bulldogs' final drive 5-for-5, but his following two passes fall incomplete, bringing 4th-&-6 from the Bearcats' 36-yard line.

  Podlesny came on for the 53-yard field-goal try and sends it through the uprights, giving Georgia a 22-21 lead with three seconds remaining on the game clock. The 53-yard distance ties the longest field goal made in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl history.

  Georgia does not even give Ridder a chance with Ojulari sacking him in the end zone for a safety, giving the Bulldogs a 24-21 comeback victory, moving them to 8-2 on the season and handing Cincinnati their only loss of the season, giving them a 9-1 record.

  The Bulldogs found a way led by a composed Daniels, but the Bearcats made them work for every last second of it.

  Some may simply say the SEC won this one.

  But if the AAC is not that good, why did it take all the way to the final three seconds in order to overcome the deficit?

  Either way, we saw the game safely, socially-distanced, and had Chick-fil-A.

  That sounds like a good start to 2021 to me.

Categories: American Athletic Conference, College Football, NCAA