SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A stifling defensive effort and an established ground attack by the 15th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs paved the path for a 20-19 victory over No. 24 Notre Dame Saturday night in front of a crowd of 77,622 at Notre Dame Stadium.
With less than two minutes remaining, the Fighting Irish had an opportunity to put together a potential game-wining drive, however the Bulldogs forced its second turnover to put the game away. On 1st-and-10 from the ND 36 yard line, senior outside linebacker Davin Bellamy caused a sack-fumble on Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush and fellow senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter recovered the fumble. With no timeouts remaining for Notre Dame, a few kneel downs sealed the Georgia victory.
Defensively, the Bulldogs held the Fighting Irish to 266 total yards (211 passing, 55 rushing) and limited ND to 3-for-17 on third down conversions. In his first career start, true freshman Jake Fromm, a native of Warner Robins, Ga., went 16-for-29 for 144 yards and one touchdown. Georgia amassed 326 total yards of offense with 141 coming through the air and 185 yards on the ground.
“I didn’t say nothing to them (defense), Coach Tucker handled that,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “He had those guys playing hard. They played hard for him. They love him, and they played relentless. We’ve got to clean things up. We’ve got a good football team, but you talk about sloppy. Penalties, penalties, turnovers, turnovers. Can’t do that. I’m just so happy for these fans. We brought 40,000-some fans down here, and these guys are awesome.”
Senior running back Nick Chubb tallied 13 carries for 63 yards, while fellow senior back Sony Michel finished with 13 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown. In the receiving group, sophomore wide receiver Mecole Hardman had a team-high four catches for 26 yards, while junior wide receiver Terry Godwin collected a team-high 36 yards on two catches.
Statistically, redshirt sophomore defensive back J.R. Reed led the Bulldogs with nine tackles. Carter tallied seven tackles, two forced fumbles, one recovered fumble and one sack. Junior inside linebacker Roquan Smith added seven tackles and one sack.
At the half, Notre Dame held the 13-10 advantage with each defense limiting the respective offense. Georgia held the Fighting Irish to 27 rushing yards and 114 yards passing. The Bulldogs tallied 86 yards on the ground. Fromm was 8-for-15 for 69 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The Fighting Irish notched the first touchdown in the second quarter to go ahead 10-3, however Georgia fought right back on the subsequent possession. From five yards out, Fromm floated the ball up to the back-corner pylon for Godwin who reeled in a spectacular one-handed catch.
The Bulldogs took their first lead of the game, 17-16, at the 4:34 mark in the third quarter when Michel punched it in from 6 yards out on the ground. The drive featured a 40-yard dash from freshman D’Andre Swift and two personal foul penalties by Notre Dame.
The seesaw battle continued as the Fighting Irish went up 19-17 at 11:08 in the fourth quarter, but Blankenship booted a 30-yard field goal to regain the lead with 3:34 left to play in the contest. Blankenship’s third field goal decided the game.
Georgia is back at home in Sanford Stadium next Saturday, Sept. 16, against Samford. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will air on SEC Network Alternate.