• GAME RECAP: No. 3 Bulldogs hold on to beat Notre Dame again

    By: Chip Towers

    Updated:

    Athens - Maybe Georgia and Notre Dame can keep playing every other year, because they have some great games when they do.

    Once again, it was the Bulldogs that came out on top. They needed a second-half comeback and a fourth-quarter defensive to do so. Georgia got three Rodrigo Blankenship field goals and a nifty sideline catch by Lawrence Cager for a fourth-quarter touchdown, then D.J. Daniel knocked away a final Notre Dame pass with 45 seconds remaining to hang on for a 23-17 victory before a record crowd of 93,246 at Sanford Stadium.

    J.R. Reed’s interception of an Ian Book pass with Notre Dame on the move in the fourth quarter helped preserve the victory and make Blankenship's 43-yard field goal with 6:54 remaining the difference for the Bulldogs.

    Notre Dame didn’t go quietly. Book hit Chase Claypool on a four-yard TD pass with 3:12 to play to complete a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive. The Irish didn’t attempt an onside kick as the Bulldogs were expecting, but squibbed instead and dropped D’Andre Swift inside the 25.

    The No. 3 Bulldogs improve to 4-0 with the victory and 7-10 in Top 10 matchups. Conversely, the No. 7 Fighting Irish fall to 1-18 in games against Top 5 teams this century.

    This one was a competitive throughout, just like in 2017 in the last regular-season matchup between these teams in South Bend, Ind. The Bulldogs won that one 20-19. They’re now 3-0 all time against Notre Dame having also won a 1981 Sugar Bowl matchup that clinched the national championship for Georgia.

    The Fighting Irish fall to 2-1, but likely will be favored in all their remaining games. They play Virginia next week. The Bulldogs are off.

    Georgia got a huge second half from Fromm and star running back D’Andre Swift. After being held to 33 yards in the first half, Swift broke loose for 65 yards, most of it coming in a critical stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters. Included in that stretch was Swift hurdling a Notre Dame defender on a 10-yard run. Swift finished with 98 yards and scored a touchdown.

    Meanwhile, Fromm came alive throwing the ball in the fourth quarter. He was 3-for-4 for 66 yards on what was effectively the game-winning drive. The one incompletion was an on-target pass in the end zone to George Pickens that looked like pass interference on Notre Dame. But Fromm simply called the same play to the left side for Cager, and he snatched on the boundary throw just in time to get one foot down.

    Fromm was 20-of-26 for 181 and a score. Book was 29-of-47 for 275 yards and two TDs for the Irish, but also threw two interceptions.

    Trailing 10-7 after the first half, Georgia got its first break in the five minutes into the third quarter when Divaad Wilson picked off a pass and returned it 11 yards to the Notre Dame 22, fumbling the ball along the way. The Bulldogs retained possession but, after a nice gain by Swift and a pass in the flat, guard Justin Shaffer was called for unnecessary roughness, negating the play and sending them back 15 yards.

    Georgia would get back to the 30 and Demetris Robertson looked to have been interfered with in the end zone by Notre Dame’s Shaun Crawford. But no flags were thrown and Rodrigo Blankenship tied the game with a 40-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10 with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter.

     

    Blankenship came through for the Bulldogs at the end of their next possession as well. Georgia had flown down the field and was second-and-5 at the Notre Dame 20 when Fromm shifted out to receiver and Swift took the shotgun snap on a designed run. The Irish weren’t fooled and dropped Swift for a yard gain. Then Simmons couldn’t hang onto Fromm’s pass deep in the back of the end zone on third-down, leaving Blankenship to convert a 31-yard field goal this time. That gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game, 13-10, with 4:21 remaining in the third quarter.

     

    The first quarter featured only six first downs and 115 yards between the two teams, but it was Georgia that blinked first. Or, specifically, Tyler Simmons.

     

    The senior wideout and punt return was late in throwing up a hand to signal fair catch and muffed a punt return inside the 10. The ball bounced directly to Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool, who was closing in fast on the play, and the Irish took over at the Georgia 8.

     

    The Bulldogs were extremely resistant, forcing a fourth-and-goal even after be called for a pass-interference on second down. But on that final play, Book threw a pass that was not intended for 6-6 tight end Cole Kmet, but that Kmet jumped high and tipped to himself for a touchdown. That staked the Irish to a 7-0 lead with 10:39 remaining in the second quarter.

     

    That seemed to wake up the Georgia offense. With Fromm converting two third-down passes for 8 and 14 yards, and Fromm gaining six-yards on a rare quarterback keeper, D’Andre Swift sliced into the end zone on a three-yard run to cap a 13-play drive of 8:12 to tie the score at 7.

     

    Taking over with just 2:27 left in the half, the Irish came flying back down the field, paced by Kmet’s 28-yard reception. They’d reach the Georgia 9 before chess match broke out between Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly. Smart called a timeout when the Irish lined up for a 27-yard field goal on third down with 9 seconds remaining. Then Notre Dame sent its offense back out on the field, which prompted another UGA timeout. Finally, Book’s third-down pass for Claypool was incomplete with 5 seconds remaining.

     

    This time Notre Dame kicked the field goal and took a 10-7 lead into the halftime locker room. 

    Next Up: