ATLANTA - The 47th edition of the Sugar Bowl featured a seventh-ranked Notre Dame team that was fresh off a 20-3 loss against then No. 17 USC and looking to get a win over the nation’s top-ranked team, the Georgia Bulldogs, to win a national championship.
Georgia, which had just beat Georgia Tech 38-20 in the Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate rivalry, put its undefeated season on the line one final time under head coach Vince Dooley.
In front of an excited crowd of nearly 77,900 fans packed inside the Superdome, in New Orleans, Georgia (12-0) did not disappoint.
The Bulldogs limited the Fighting Irish to only 10 first downs, 127 yards of total offense that included only seven total passing yards and forced four turnovers -- three interceptions and one fumble.
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Notre Dame (9-2-1) scored on its first possession of the game with a 50-yard field goal from Harry Oliver to give the Fighting Irish an early 3-0 lead. Then, in their next drive, the Fighting Irish moved the ball down the field against the Bulldogs’ defense looking to add to their score but the Bulldogs’ Terry Hoage blocked Oliver’s 46-yard field goal.
That block fueled the Bulldogs. With solid field position, Walker ran the ball six times in the drive, getting the Bulldogs to Notre Dame’s 19-yard line. This set up kicker Rex Robinson for a 46-yard field goal, tying the game at 3-3.
On the kickoff for next drive, Notre Dame’s deep backs Jim Stone and Ty Barber miscommunicated who would field the kick. As a result, the ball hit near the goal line and bounced around before the Bulldogs’ Bob Kelly recovered it on the Fighting Irish's’ 1-yard line.
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Notre Dame’s kickoff miscue led to Walker’s 1-yard rushing touchdown, putting the Bulldogs up 10-3.
In the second quarter, things would continue to go in Georgia’s favor and the Bulldogs scored their final touchdown of the game. Notre Dame fullback John Sweeney fumbled the ball on a 1-yard run after he was hit by linebacker Frank Ros. Bulldogs’ Chris Welton recovered the ball on Notre Dame’s 22-yard line.
The Bulldogs went two plays that included a 7-yard scramble from quarterback Buck Belue. Then, Walker found his way into the end zone untouched to give Georgia a 17-3 lead.
Looking to get back in the game, Notre Dame’s struggles continued. Although moving the ball to Georgia’s 13-yard line, Fighting Irish quarterback Mike Courey attempted to connect with receiver Pete Holohan but he was intercepted by Scott Woerner -- one of his several key plays to help Georgia seal the victory in the second half.
Later in the third, Notre Dame would score on a rushing touchdown, mainly from the help of quarterback Blair Kiel, who took over for an injured Courey, setting up running back Phil Carter for 1-yard touchdown run to bring the Fighting Irish deficit to 17-10.
Looking to tie the game at 17, the Bulldogs’ defense got another huge stop from Woerner, who dropped Carter for a 1-yard loss on third down from the Bulldogs 20-yard line. As a result, that led to Oliver missing a 38-yard field goal and him finishing 1 for 4 on field goals for the game.
The Bulldogs’ defense continued to make plays and held off the Fighting Irish to earn their first national championship in the modern era of college football. Walker was named the MVP, finishing with 150 rushing yards, and the Bulldogs ended the season as the only undefeated, untied Division I team in the nation.
Georgia returns to the National Championship on Jan. 8, 2018, against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This year’s title game marks the first time the two teams have played each other for a college football championship.
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