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Georgia Rides Elite Defense to National Title, Led by Captain Nakobe Dean: ‘I Just Thank God for Everything’

Nakobe Dean
Georgia's Nakobe Dean breaks up a pass intended for Alabama's Cameron Latu during the first half of the College Football Playoff championship football game Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

This story is courtesy of Sports Spectrum and is used by permission.

Entering Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Indianapolis, Georgia had a former walk-on at quarterback while Alabama was led by the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. It was a tall task, but the Bulldogs’ chances rode on their top-ranked defense and how well it could slow the Crimson Tide’s high-powered offense.

The D carried them to victory.

Georgia stifled Alabama and Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young, collecting a 33-18 victory for Georgia’s first football national championship since 1980. Young threw for 369 yards and a touchdown, but he also tossed two interceptions — his first collegiate game with multiple picks — the second of which was returned 79 yards for a touchdown to seal the victory for the Bulldogs.

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Alabama averaged 494.6 offensive yards per game this season, and in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4 against Georgia, it gained 536 total yards. But on Monday night, the Bulldogs held the Tide to just 399 total yards and only 30 rushing yards.

The defense that ranked first in the country in points allowed (9.5) and second in the nation in yards allowed (253.9) held the reigning national champs to just one touchdown.

“It was the defense who kept us in this game,” said that former walk-on, QB Stetson Bennett, in his postgame press conference, “while we were stumbling over our own feet the entire first half and then starting out in the second half. They won this game for us.”

That defense is led by junior inside linebacker Nakobe Dean, who’s a team captain and the winner of the 2021 Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker. He finished with four tackles Monday night, after leading the team in tackles (68) and sacks (six) for the season. As a mechanical engineering student with a 4.0 GPA, he’s also the play-caller for the defense and a projected first-round NFL draft pick.

After the game ended, Dean took a knee and bowed his head on the field.

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Jon Ackerman is managing editor at Sports Spectrum.