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Turning Point of the Game: Orange Bowl

Here is when it all went downhill.

Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl - Georgia v Michigan Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The No. 2 Michigan Wolverines’ storied 2021 season came to an end in a loss to the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs by a score of 34-11.

It wasn’t Michigan’s night, as the Wolverines quickly fell into a huge deficit to the Bulldogs’ high-powered offense early in the game. Right out of the gate, Georgia was on fire scoring three touchdowns in the first half. Throughout the game, the Bulldog’s offense picked apart the Wolverine defense, amassing multiple plays over 50 yards. Complementing the offense, Georgia’s defense was suffocating and had no issue forcing Michigan’s offense off the field in quick succession. Georgia stifled any chance the Wolverines had to mount a meaningful comeback and rode out the lead until the clock hit zero.

The Wolverines won the toss and Hard Rock Stadium was buzzing with anticipation. Michigan deferred to the second half and the race was on. Georgia opened up its first drive quickly moving down the field, with Stetson Bennett connecting with Brock Bowers for the first score of the game. It was the first time the Wolverines allowed a touchdown on an opening drive since the Western Michigan game.

The Maize and Blue then turned the ball over on their first drive of the game at Georgia’s 41 yard line after the ball was thrown just out of Erick All’s reach. This gave the Bulldogs excellent field position to set up a second scoring drive finishing with a wide open touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell.

The game was quickly getting out of hand for Michigan, as its lone score of the first half came via a Jake Moody 36-yard field goal to put the Wolverines down 17-3. Georgia would put up another 10 points with a field goal and another touchdown just before half. The Wolverines knew they had an uphill battle coming into the game as they were considered the underdogs, but Georgia did its part and kept them from finding a way to chip away their lead. Georgia led 27-3 at halftime.

The Bulldogs scored on five of their six drives in the first half. While it didn’t feel like Michigan was too far in the hole throughout the first half, it was the Bulldogs’ third touchdown of the game that sealed their fate. In a three-play, 69-yard drive, Georgia’s Bennett connected with Jermaine Burton for a 57-yard score. This would ultimately be the turning point of the game. The Georgia offense looked unstoppable and kept finding ways to score on each drive. Michigan struggled to move the chains, and that ultimately sealed the deal early. Georgia could have not scored the rest of the game and would have still won with a healthy lead with its first-half score.

The task of mounting a comeback felt insurmountable afterwards and the only path to said comeback was to play a flawless game. Michigan kept getting in its own way, however, racking up drive-ending penalty yards and turnovers. Nothing seemed to go its way and frustration was evident. Georgia’s elite talent on both sides of the ball showed up early in the game and that was enough to send them to its second National Championship appearance.

It was a rough go for the Maize and Blue, amounting 328 total yards to Georgia’s staggering 521 yards. In true Bulldog fashion, they eliminated Michigan’s ground attack, only allowing 91 rushing yards the entire game. Both the run defense and being down early forced the Wolverines to throw often, which opened Michigan up to a lot of pass pressure and mistakes.

Despite the outcome of the game, the future is bright for the Maize and Blue. They return the majority of the roster and welcome a top 10 recruiting class. Michigan found a lot of success this season, especially when we take into account them going 2-4 the year prior. It was a heckuva ride for the Wolverines this year and as Blake Corum said, “we’ll be back.” They got a taste of the College Football Playoff and they’ll make sure next time they will be the last one standing. Or die trying.