The seventh-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish traveled down to Athens to face off against the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs Saturday night. The primetime matchup was one of the most anticipated games in the 2019 season.
One of the main criticisms of Notre Dame in recent history is their inability to beat the elite teams in college football. As you might imagine, expectations were low for Brian Kelly’s team on Saturday night.
The Irish entered there game against Georgia as 14.5-point underdogs, and you would be hard-pressed to find a non-Notre Dame fan that was predicting an upset.
The Irish did not get their upset, but they fought hard and likely earned some respect. Georgia won the game by a final score of 23-17. Here is how it all unfolded.
The Irish won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. A move that I love in big games like this.
The return of Cole Kmet was noticed immediately. He had three catches for 33 yards on the opening drive and was not shying away from contact in the slightest. A couple of penalties by Notre Dame offensive linemen stalled the drive a bit, and the Irish were forced to punt.
After all the talk about their running game, Jake Fromm and the Georgia offense came out throwing the ball on their first drive. Some nice open-field tackling helped the Irish force a punt, which only traveled 25 yards and gave them excellent field position.
Notre Dame quickly faced a fourth and two on the ensuing possession. Brian Kelly decided to go for it on fourth down, and freshman center Jarrett Patterson snapped the ball too early on the play. The ball ended up 10 yards behind Book, who had to scoop it up and throw it away.
The Irish defense continued to play well — especially the front seven. Julian Okwara nearly got to Jake Fromm on third down and forced a bad throw that fell incomplete.
Yet another false start penalty (the third of the night for Notre Dame) put the Irish in a third and long situation, which became fourth and long. The Georgia returner muffed the punt on the ten yard line, and Chase Claypool recovered the ball.
The sequence that followed was a bit weird: jet sweep, jump ball, jump ball, quarterback run, and deflected pass on an attempted wide receiver screen. It left the Irish in a fourth and goal situation at the one yard line. Ian Book tried to throw it to Tony Jones in the back of the endzone, but that selfish Cole Kmet, who was apparently wearing magnets for gloves, stole the pass for a touchdown.
The Georgia offense marched right down the field on their next drive. Jake Fromm completed all five of his pass attempts for 43 yards, and D’Andre Swift punched it in from three yards out to tie the game at 7-7.
With 2:27 left on the clock and Georgia set to receive the second half kickoff, the Notre Dame offense needed to respond.
Chris Finke made an absolutely crazy catch behind the back of a Georgia defender on a ball that was bobbled in the air. Then Ian Book completed passes to Cole Kmet (for seemingly the hundredth time) for 40 yards and Lawrence Keys for 28 yards to put the Irish in scoring position.
The opportunity was squandered. After a few plays and some poor clock management, the Irish had to settle for a 27-yard field goal attempt that Jonathan Doerer converted to put the Irish up 10-7 at halftime.
The Georgia offense went back to their bread and butter to start the second half. They ran the ball five times for 25 yards, but were ultimately forced to punt again.
On the ensuing possession, the Irish turned it over deep in their own territory. Ian Book’s pass to Chris Finke was bobbled in the air and intercepted by a Georgia defender. Fortunately for Notre Dame, their defense was able to get a stop (with some help from a Georgia personal foul penalty) and force a field goal, which tied the game at 10-10.
The Bulldogs forced a three and out and got the ball right back. They moved quickly down the field with chunk plays of 16, 19 , and 12 yards. Tariq Bracy had a crucial pass break-up in the endzone on third down. As a result, Georgia had to kick a field goal and took the lead, 13-10.
At this point, the Notre Dame offense needed to get something (anything) going. That did not happen. The false start bug continued to plague the Irish. Two false start penalties were followed by another Jay Bramblett punt.
Similar to how they opened the half, the Bulldog offense went back to the run. Four quick runs for 28 yards put them close to midfield as the quarter ended.
Jake Fromm connected with wide receiver Lawrence Cager for 36 yards to set the Bulldogs up in the red zone. Three plays later, those two connected again for a touchdown. At 6’5” and 220 lbs, Cager’s size proved to be too much for the Irish cornerbacks on those plays.
Trailing 20-10, the Notre Dame offense was in desperately need of points. The Irish converted their first first down of the second half on this drive. Unfortunately, two plays later, Ian Book was intercepted by JR Reed.
At this point, the Irish defense was a bit gassed and the Georgia offense was clicking. They moved 41 yards down the field and burned three and a half minutes off of the clock. They ultimately settled for a field goal to extend their lead to 23-10.
The Notre Dame offense was finally able to get something going on the next drive. Shocker, Cole Kmet had two more catches for 40 yards. Ian Book had a nine yard scramble for a big first down. However, Chase Claypool was the star of the drive. He had a brilliant toe-tap catch on the sideline for 23 yards followed by a four yard touchdown catch to cut the lead to 23-17 with 3:12 left in the game.
The defense did their job and Notre Dame got the ball back with two minutes on the clock. A few plays later, the Irish faced a fourth and nine with a game on the line. Ian Book was flushed out of the pocket and had to throw what was essentially a Hail Mary. The pass was batted down, and Jake Fromm took a knee to end the game.