It did not help that Georgia missed a 47-yard field goal on its opening drive. The ball returned to the Buckeyes, and Stroud used a 24-yard pass to Harrison to move Ohio State into Georgia territory. Later, Stroud took a snap and Harrison swept — no, surged — across the field and caught a touchdown.
The Bulldogs retaliated with a touchdown by way of a quick throw from quarterback Stetson Bennett to Kenny McIntosh, but quickly found themselves down 21-7 early in the second quarter, in part because of their own miscues. Bennett, himself a Heisman finalist, had thrown an interception that helped lead to an Ohio State score, and nerves were fraying in Atlanta and Athens, in Norcross and Waycross.
Georgia fans of this particular era, after all, are not accustomed to trailing by any margin, much less a double-digit one.
Still, Georgia trailed by 4 at halftime and eventually set up for its surge with less than nine minutes left in the game.
After a hapless Ohio State drive, Bennett found Arian Smith charging alone up the field. The throw arrived as Smith’s feet reached the playoff logo at the Ohio State 25. He ran, ran and ran a little more. He could have slowed down a touch since no Buckeye defender was close enough to try a lunge to stop him.
Ruggles responded to the touchdown with a 48-yard field goal for Ohio State. Two minutes, 43 seconds to go, and Georgia, the reigning champion, was down by 6 in Atlanta.
This was not a game where many fans were leaving. (Theatrics aside, if you had paid what some of them did to get in — a mortgage payment or more — you might have been hard-pressed to leave, too, no matter the score.) The stadium, where Georgia had crushed two opponents this season, stayed awash in red, scarlet and hoarseness. The Peach Bowl, they were reasonably certain, would prove a lot better than the Peach Drop, a local New Year’s Eve celebration.