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Georgia survives upset threat from Cincinnati in Peach Bowl thriller

Some controversial in-game coaching decisions will dominate the talk about this one.

Georgia wide receiver George Pickens celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of the Peach Bowl NCAA college football game between Georgia and Cincinnati at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta., on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2021. Athens Herald Banner-USA TODAY NETWORK

Jack Podlensky hit a 53-yard field goal with three seconds remaining as the Georgia Bulldogs survived the Cincinnati Bearcats 24-21 in the 2021 Peach Bowl in Atlanta on Friday.

The Bulldogs led for exactly three seconds of football, after a game Cincinnati (9-1) squad gave all it had but flamed out offensively in the second half.

UGA (9-2) quarterback JT Daniels helped key the comeback, going 26-38 for 392 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His leading target was George Pickens, who had seven catches for 135 yards and a scoring reception.

Some controversial clock management will haunt both coaches, as Bulldogs leader Kirby Smart took a timeout with 2:59 remaining on 4th and 3 from his own 43 trailing 21-19... only to end up punting anyway. Then Bearcats coach Luke Fickell, who called a brilliant fake punt earlier in the game, went for a home run on 3rd and 2 with under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but it fell incomplete.

After a 79-yard rushing TD on the second play of third quarter from Jerome Ford, the Bearcats ran 27 offensive plays for a grand total of 18 yards. The No. 1 ranked defense in America in Georgia threw the lights on late in the game, overwhelming UC at every turn.

Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder was 24-37 for 206 yards through the air, but the constant pressure he faced saw him charged with 15 carries for -17 yards due to sack yardage counting against college quarterbacks.

With the loss, the argument of Cincinnati that they should be able to compete for a national championship this year falls a bit by the wayside, despite missing stars running back Gerrid Doaks and safety James Wiggins. But that shouldn’t overshadow an outstanding season for what was likely the best Group of Five team.