ATHENS (CBS46) – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Saturday night, depending on which half of football you were watching them play against the Georgia Bulldogs.
The Dawgs shook off a shaky first-half to dominate the Fighting Irish in the second half en route to a 23-17 victory. While Georgia won, it didn’t always look great for the Bulldogs.
The Fighting Irish put a clamp down on everything Georgia ran in the first quarter, holding the Bulldogs to just 34 yards of total offense. It wasn’t even that close with Notre Dame controlling the Bulldogs running game and Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm couldn’t take advantage.
Georgia’s defense held strong for most of the first half, except for one drive Notre Dame started deep in Georgia territory after a muffed punt. Notre Dame took advantage of Georgia’s smaller cornerbacks and eventually threw a touchdown pass to start the scoring in the game.
Throughout the first half, Notre Dame constantly targeted Georgia’s secondary and it was especially evident on the Irish’s final drive of the half. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book systematically picked apart Georgia’s secondary and took the Irish down to the red zone before the Dawgs defense stiffened and held Notre Dame to a field goal to give the Irish a 10-7 lead.
It was a dominating performance in the first half for Notre Dame’s defense outside of Georgia’s lone touchdown drive. The strategy for the Irish in the first half was to force Jake Fromm to beat them and for the first thirty minutes, Fromm wasn’t up to the task.
But, as the second half started, Book threw an interception giving Georgia prime field position. Fromm couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, settling for a field goal that tied the game. Fromm once again didn’t seal the deal with a touchdown drive that could have given Georgia serious momentum.
The game went back and forth like a classic SEC slugfest through the third quarter until the Dawgs were able to drive into Notre Dame territory for a 31-yard field goal. The drive was upended thanks in some part to what appears to be a fake injury from Notre Dame.
After a Georgia pass completion, one Notre Dame player physically pushed down another player for an injury timeout. It stopped all of Georgia’s momentum and they didn’t recover on that drive.
Still, the field goal gave Georgia a 13-10 lead, late in the third quarter.
Georgia really turned on the defense in the third quarter, holding Notre Dame to back to back three and outs.
Crowd noise led to six false start penalties through the third quarter. The crowd was electric from the opening kickoff and came alive when the Dawgs took the lead. Dawgs defense began to shut down Notre Dame receivers and held the dawgs to another punt.
Georgia forced another punt and immediately drove the ball down Notre Dame’s throat with quarterback Jake Fromm shaking off some early struggles to throw a perfectly placed touchdown pass late in the third quarter giving Georgia a 20-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs’ defense really came alive in the third quarter by keeping Notre Dame from gaining a first down in the entire quarter. Notre Dame finally got a first down only to see Book throw an interception two plays later.
After that, Georgia simply imposed its will on a completely exhausted Notre Dame defense. Led by running back D’Andre Swift, Notre Dame’s defense went from running step for step with Georgia receivers to being a half-step slow on most plays.
As the fourth quarter started to wear on, Georgia started to play keep away from the Irish by leaning on Swift and the running game. The Dawgs took a 23-10 off the foot of Rodrigo Blankenship with less than seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame drove back to cut the lead to 23-17. Georgia took the ball back and ran the ball twice to set things up with 2:16 left in the fourth quarter. It was a third down, and Kirby Smart had the game riding on the call. He decided to let Fromm throw the football and he couldn’t complete it on third down.
Georgia could have run the ball and wound another 40 seconds off the clock. But the defense stood tall against Notre Dame’s offense and turned them away on fourth down to seal the victory.
Fromm was very efficient throughout the game and finished the game 20-26, for 187 yards and one touchdown. The win held his streak in place where to beat him, opponents must make him throw the ball at least 30 times.
Swift and his running mate Brian Herrien ran the ball 26 times for 131 yards and one touchdown.
At the end of the night, Georgia stood victorious, but Notre Dame had nothing to hang their heads about. They came into Sanford Stadium and stood toe-to-toe with one of the SEC’s elite teams. Both teams now look ahead with Georgia heading to conference play and Notre Dame facing an easier task through the rest of the season.