INDIANAPOLIS – 41 long years in the making.
The one thing that haunted us throughout those years? The Alabama Crimson Tide, led by none other than Nick Saban.
The last seven meetings: seven losses. Four in the Kirby Smart era to a team that seemed unbeatable.
Remember the 2018 National Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium? I sure do. Second-and-26 for Alabama at the UGA 41 in overtime. Tua Tagovailoa throws a touchdown pass to stun the entire Dawg Nation.
Tears were flowing. Hearts were broken. Dreams of bringing home a title were crushed before our eyes.
Campus the next day felt like a funeral. Students walked around with their heads down and faces somber. We were all mourning the loss of something that just meant more than another victory.
That all changed Monday night.
The city of Indy was swarmed in red and black. Screams of “Go Dawgs” rang out from every corner.
And yes, there was barking at the airport baggage claim.
The best part about this revenge tour weekend? I got to be there to witness it all with my very own eyes.
As I woke up Monday, it felt like Christmas morning. The game that Dawg fans had been talking about since that heartbreaking SEC Championship loss to the Tide just 37 days before, was finally here.
This time, it came with a taste of revenge on the big stage.
The first half was about as ugly as could be. Field goal here. Field goal there. But no touchdowns in sight.
These guys still looked snakebit by this Bama curse. Another disappointment seemed on the horizon.
However, the one thing that stayed constant? The Bulldog defense.
I don’t know what Kirby Smart said in that locker room during halftime, but he worked his pep talk magic once again. A different team ran out onto that field. A team with built-up determination to break this curse once and for all.
As Saban said to Smart in the postgame encounter, “You guys kicked our ass in the fourth quarter. Congrats.”
Yes, the Dawgs did just that.
It was a rollercoaster of emotions. You were never comfortable. I turned to my dad and said, “I can’t take this stress. My heart is beating out of my chest.”
“That makes two of us,” he said over the sound of fans cheering.
The fourth quarter was a Georgia freshman touchdown frenzy. Receiver Adonai Mitchell … touchdown. SEC Freshman of the Year tight end Brock Bowers catches a swing pass and runs it in for a … touchdown.
The moment I will remember for the rest of my life? The play that made Dawg Nation’s dreams a reality. Fifty-four seconds left in the biggest game of their lives.
All it took was one more touchdown for me to take a slight sigh of relief. Alabama was down by eight, but no score seemed safe with Saban at the helm.
On that 54-second mark, a play that will be watched by millions for many years to come.
The most special part? I got to see it with my own eyes.
Freshman cornerback Kelee Ringo may have had the play of his college career: a 79-yard pick-six to clinch the national title.
The game clock ran down as the entire crowd yelled in unison, “five, four, three, two.”
And to tie a bow on this revenge victory.
The Dawgs’ dominant defense sacked Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young for the fourth time. I mean, I could not have written that ending any better.
That moment. After screaming my head off and high-fiving my parents, I had tears in my eyes.
I stood there in awe as the red confetti fell from the top of Lucas Oil Stadium. I had just witnessed history.
I know to some of you, it is just football. But to each and every player on this team, the entire state of Georgia and every Bulldog fan, this win means a whole lot more.
When I came back home repping my Georgia gear from head to toe, my fellow USC classmates were happy for me. They knew how long I had been waiting for this moment but also couldn’t help the occasional eye roll. Maybe one day soon, Trojan fans can experience exactly what I did. Hiring Lincoln Riley was definitely a step in that direction. He is already putting the pieces in place to make a legitimate playoff run.
Meanwhile, I am still sitting here in my white Georgia baseball cap and red sweatshirt. I also just spent my life’s savings on Natty Championship gear. How often can you say that your team just won the biggest game in college football? I will be basking in this victory for as long as I can.
There really is no other place where redemption comes with a trophy.