Georgia stymies Michigan's pass-rushing duo of Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

If there was one thing Michigan could count on this season, it was the play up front from its defense.

More specifically, it was end Aidan Hutchinson and linebacker David Ojabo, the Big Ten’s top two in sacks this season and a pair of all-conference first-teamers.

Michigan linebacker David Ojabo chases after Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett during the third quarter. Ojabo was held without a tackle in Friday's loss.

Hutchinson was outstanding all season, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting after a dominating three-sack performance in the victory over Ohio State that sent the Wolverines to the Big Ten title game. He entered Friday’s Orange Bowl matchup against Georgia with 14 sacks and figured to be a problem for the Bulldogs.

Ojabo was nearly as disruptive all year as Hutchinson, piling up 11 sacks as part of 12 tackles for loss.

Against No. 3 Georgia with a trip to the national championship game on the line, however, neither made much of an impact as the Bulldogs dominated from the outset, scoring on its first five possessions and piling up 515 total yards on their way to a 34-11 victory over No. 2 Michigan.

More: Watch: Highlights from Michigan-Georgia in the Orange Bowl

Even more impressive from the Bulldogs was the fact they didn’t allow a sack, limiting Hutchinson to four total tackles with one for loss while Ojabo was shut out on the stat sheet, the only time this season he didn’t record at least one tackle.

“Yeah, this team's been so great,” Hutchinson said, trying to sum up what took place all season while processing the loss. “We were so bonded from Day One. Sucks it's got to end this way. I mean, nothing's going to take away our accomplishments this year, what we achieved for what we were expected.

“I'll forever love this team. We did some amazing things. Some historic stuff.”

Nothing historic, however, was happening Friday.

The Bulldogs were in control from the outset and the offensive line benefitted from going up against their own defense, arguably the best in the nation.

“We practice against good rushers each day,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “(Left tackle) Jamaree (Salyer) and (right tackle) Warren (McClendon), they listen to everybody talk about (Michigan’s players) rushing and Jamaree and Warren are good pass protectors. They do a nice job. When they don’t or they give up penetration, (quarterback) Stetson (Bennett) did a good job avoiding.

“There was a couple times we got beat, even on the (fourth-quarter) touchdown pass. I thought Stetson did an incredible job of getting the ball in the air. We did not block the edge rusher and he came scot-free and Stetson got the ball out to James (Cook), which was our only score of the second half.”

While Bennett threw that ball under duress, he had plenty of time to throw for most of the game, finishing with 310 passing yards and three touchdowns while going 21-for-31.

Add in Georgia ran for 190 yards and Bennett often was getting rid of the ball quickly, and Michigan’s defensive front made little impact.

“They did a very good job early in the game, first half especially, of extending drives,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “They were able to bleed out yards on the perimeter with some of the bubbles and swing routes and then hit the big play. They got the swing route early to (tight end Brock) Bowers, that was big, and we lost the ball on the lights on the deep throw.

“They were able to bleed out the yards and pick up the first downs. I thought they were really effective, and on first down. They must have had eight or nine third-and-shorts. They were able to get the ball to third-and-1, third-and-2 and convert those first downs and keep the chains moving and couldn't get them out of that rhythm early.”

The end result is Georgia now heads to the national title game for a rematch with Alabama, while Michigan heads into 2022 looking to next year without Hutchinson and potentially Ojabo.

“We climbed mountains this season that no one thought we could,” Hutchinson said, after Michigan won just two games last season. “We did some things that nobody expected this Michigan team to do. I think we set the standard for the future of Michigan football and we really helped this program tremendously for the future.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau