SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Just in time for the new fall TV season, NBC offered up a prime-time showing Saturday night of a game matching two college football programs with great tradition seeking to serve notice their programs were on the rise.
Georgia made the most of the chance to bag a top 25 win on the road in Notre Dame Stadium, one of college football’s most venerable venues.
True freshman quarterback Jake Fromm’s first college start turned out to be a winning one. He led a late fourth-quarter drive to put the No. 15 Bulldogs ahead for good in a 20-19 win against No. 24 Notre Dame.
Davin Bellamy ensured the win with a sack on quarterback Brandon Wimbush, going around star left tackle Mike McGlinchey that fellow outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter recovered at the Notre Dame 25 with 1:27 to play.
Fromm, stepping in for Jacob Eason who sprained his left knee last week, had two first-half turnovers, but on the go-ahead drive completed three straight passes for 45 yards and Rodrigo Blankenship made up for an earlier miss and nailed a 30-yard field goal with 3:13 to play.
Fromm went 16 of 29 for 141 yards with a touchdown and interception. The big play on a 9-play 63 yard drive for Georgia late was a 31-yard catch from Javon Wims over Nick Watkins. Georgia’s defense held Notre Dame quarterback to three straight incompletions to get the ball back.
The win was a boost to second-year coach Kirby Smart coming off an 8-5 first season. It sent a large contingent of Bulldog fans who flocked to the first ever Bulldogs game in South Bend for a bucket list experience away elated.
Georgia fans converged on South Bend after streaming into Chicago in the days before, making it a memorable weekend in the Bulldogs first ever game at Notre Dame,
Some “called out the Dawgs” at Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly’s radio show in a South Bend restaurant, at the Broadway show “Hamilton,” in Chicago and at Wrigley Field Friday night when former Georgia coach Vince Dooley threw out the first pitch.
Dooley and his wife Barbara were among what may have been more than 30,000 Bulldog fans in the sell-out crowd of 77,622.
The game matched a Notre Dame program No. 2 all-time in wins against Georgia, which is 11th all-time that only previously met in the 1981 Sugar Bowl, a 17-10 win that gave Georgia the 1980 national title.
And it lived up to the anticipation with a close, evenly-played first half.
Georgia (2-0) had the edge in total yards 155-141, but the Bulldogs turned it over twice, both from Fromm.
Justin Yoo kicked four field goals for the Irish, including a 28-yard field goal with 10:21 to play.to put the Irish ahead 19-17.
The Irish (1-1) went 73 yards in 13 plays to set up the field goal in a drive that defensive lineman Julian Rochester was flagged for a face mask. The Bulldogs had a whopping 12 penalties for 127 yards, the fourth most penalty yards ever recorded for Georgia.
Fromm, the Houston County product, looked like a true freshman making his first college start at times. E had a second-quarter interception and earlier fumbled on an exchange with Nick Chubb and tried to pick it up instead of jumping on it and t the Irish recovered.
That gave the Irish ball at the Georgia 32 with 13:17 left in first half.
Notre Dame scored on a 1-yard Richard Wimbush touchdown run to make it 10-3, set up by a Josh Adams 32-yard reception from Wimbush with a facemask penalty for UGA to the 2.
The Bulldogs then found some success in the running games behind tailbacks Chubb, Sony Michel and even fullback Chirstian Payne but it was a spectacular catch by Terry Godwin that evened up the game.
Godwin went up and made a highlight-worthy one-handed grab on the right side of the end zone over Julian Love. It was initially ruled incompleted but overruled by replay review when it was determined Godwin in fact had possession of the ball and got a foot down.
Notre Dame went to the locker room up 13-10 after Yoo’s 42-yard field goal with 2:31 left in the half. He put Notre Dame up 3-0 on a 39-yarder just 2:12 into the game.
Blankenship accounted for the other Georgia points on a 27-yard first quarter field goal, but he couldn’t converted when the Bulldogs had a chance to tie. His 44-yard field goal attempt on the first possession of the second half was wide right.
Georgia’s defense held Notre Dame to 0-for-9 on third downs to start the game, but couldn’t get off the field after a pass interference call on Dominick Sanders on a third-and-11 gave the Irish the ball at the Georgia 42.
Wimbush completed passes of 11 and 7 yards to set up a Yoo 37-yard field goal with 6:22 left in the third quarter to increase the lead to 16-10.
On just his third college carry, D’Andre Swift broke free for a 40-yard gain. Add on a face mask penalty and Georgia was in position to go ahead.
Michel went in standing up untouched on a 6-yard touchdown run after a hole opened up on the left side of the line. Blankenship’s extra point made it 17-16 with 4:34 left in the quarter.
Georgia got the ball back on a Lorenzo Carter sack and fumble recovery, but Georgia went three-and-out after Mecole Hardman dropped a deep ball on first down.
The Bulldogs got back in the red zone and cashed in this time with Blankenship’s kick.