By Nathan Berg
The Red & Black
ATLANTA—When the Georgia players first rushed out of the tunnel to take the field inside Mercedes-Benz stadium prior to the start of the national championship game against Alabama on Jan. 8, they were met with raucous cheers and yells from the crowd. When the Alabama players stormed out moments later, boos drowned out much of the noise created by Crimson Tide supporters.
And thus the tone was set for what ultimately amounted to a home-game experience for Georgia, the team that hasn’t had a shot for a national title in over 30 years.
“It was a great atmosphere,” sophomore tight end Isaac Nauta said. “It’s everything you would expect a championship game to be … Georgia fans came out, and they did a great job for us.”
It’s tough to gauge exactly how many more Georgia fans attended the game than Alabama fans, but based on crowd noise made during big plays for either side, Bulldog supporters appeared to outnumber their counterparts at least two to one.
For the players, the support from the fans was far from a surprise.
“We knew they was going to be there because of what happened out there in Los Angeles,” junior receiver Terry Godwin said. “If that many Georgia fans traveled that far, we knew for a fact that this game was going to be packed out, because it’s right here at home for us.”
Georgia road crowds have been a factor all season, tracking all the way back to the team’s first away contest of the year against Notre Dame. Although the game was played in South Bend, Ind., attendees of the 20-19 Georgia win in red and black outnumbered those in blue and gold.
Redshirt freshman guard Ben Cleveland said the fan support has been crucial to the Bulldogs’ championship run.
“They’re the reason we won as many games as we had this year,” he said. “They’ll drive anywhere for us, and we can’t thank them enough.”
Yet despite the all that support, Georgia came up just a little bit short in the season’s final contest. After Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s tossed his game-winning touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith in overtime, there were some cheering and happy faces among those in attendance.
More common were the disappointed, the sad and the stunned.
“The fans were here,” senior tight end Jeb Blazevich said. “I hate to let them down. It’s just tough. But they came out and they were a big factor for us as always, and I think they definitely helped us. I’m sorry it wasn’t enough from us.”