ATLANTA — Younger brother finally got his spotlight on the big stage.
Riley Ridley, who is a sophomore receiver and younger brother of Alabama star receiver Calvin Ridley, was easily the star of Georgia’s passing game.
Riley Ridley, a 6-foot-2 target who had never competed in a game against his brother before Monday night’s national championship game, had four of Jake Fromm’s first 11 receptions.
In a first half where Georgia (13-2) clearly wanted to stretch Alabama’s secondary, especially on early downs, Ridley came up with two big catches on third down to extend drives that allowed Georgia to hang onto the football for 19 of the game’s first 30 minutes of play.
“Somebody told me it’s not a championship game without a Ridley in it,” Riley said to ESPN in his media day interview Saturday morning. “Now you have two here. For me to be here and experience what he’s experienced is beautiful.”
Riley Ridley, who was a former four-star prospect out of Deerfield Beach, Florida, came into Mercedes-Benz Stadium with just eight receptions and just three in the last three months.
However, Riley’s older brother on the other sideline came into this contest with much more hype and cause for concern for the Georgia defense.
Ridley brothers ready to face each other in the #NationalChampionship game
— NCAA Football (@NCAAFootball) January 7, 2018
Calvin Ridley, who led Alabama with 58 catches over 13 previous games, had four catches for 32 yards and a touchdown.
Blakenship becomes difference maker: Georgia easily exploited its advantage in the kicking game early and often with a pair of field goals from third-year sophomore kicker Rodrigo Blankenship.
The player nicknamed “Hot Rod,” who wasn’t placed on scholarship by Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart until after the 20-19 win at Notre Dame on Sept. 9, converted on a 41-yard field goal and split the uprights on a 27-yard attempt to give Georgia an early lead. Blankenship also converted a 51-yard field goal in overtime.
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) January 9, 2018
Meanwhile, Alabama’s kicking game struggled again. Trinity graduate Andy Pappanastos badly missed a 40-yard field goal following an interception of Fromm in the first quarter.
Blankenship, who is majoring in digital and broadcast journalism at Georgia, was selected to an All-Southeastern Conference team this season behind first-team Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson after making 17 of 20 field goals and has been 8 of 9 in his last three games, including being responsible for 25 points in his three postseason games that include the SEC Championship Game, Rose Bowl and Monday night’s contest.
Hardman’s trick and treat: Sophomore wide receiver Mecole Hardman introduced his speed to the world in a big and in a distinctly different way with a pair of touchdowns.
Hardman stopped an early Alabama second-half momentum shift when Fromm hit him on a perfectly executed post route over the top of the Crimson Tide secondary for an 80-yard touchdown. The score made it 20-7 Bulldogs early in the third quarter after Alabama backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa led the offense on its first scoring drive.
In the second quarter, Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney broke out a trick on a first-and-goal play from the 1-yard line. Fromm, who completed 11 of 23 passes in the first half for 126 yards, immediately shifted out wide and was replaced by Hardman who took the snap and scampered in for the game’s first touchdown.
Hardman had a 35-yard rushing touchdown in a 53-28 win over Missouri, but his touchdown Monday was just his seventh carry of the season. The play call came immediately after a personal foul roughing the passer penalty against Deionte Thompson.
This article is written by Matt Stevens from The Montgomery Advertiser and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.