Georgia got to Dawg Walk out of Notre Dame Stadium with a victory, dozens of its fans forming a line from the locker room to the buses to congratulate the Bulldogs after the program’s first trip to this part of the country in more than 50 years.
Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy led a swarming Georgia defense and the No. 15 Bulldogs got enough plays from an offense starting a freshman quarterback to beat No. 24 Notre Dame 20-19 on Saturday night.
The first regular-season meeting between the two programs was a hard-hitting, penalty-filled tug-o-war, and when it was done the Bulldogs gathered in the corner of the stadium to salute thousands of their fans who made the pilgrimage. The Bulldogs had not ventured this far north for a game since 1965 against Michigan.
“It definitely means a little more,” linebacker Roquan Smith said. “Coming up to South Bend, an awesome environment. Then having all these Dawgs fans coming out, showing their support. Showing how much they believe in us. It’s just an awesome feeling to be able to give those fans a W.”
Rodrigo Blankenship, a walk-on who received a scholarship earlier this week, kicked a 30-yard field goal with 3:39 remaining to give the Bulldogs (2-0) a one-point lead.
Carter and company did the rest. Georgia forced Brandon Wimbush and the Fighting Irish (1-1) into a three-and-out, and then, on Notre Dame’s final drive, Bellamy blind-sided the quarterback and Carter recovered the fumble with 1:27 left.
“I saw Davin coming around the edge I was trying to get around the edge as well,” Carter said. “And once I saw him coming free I saw he had a chance to knock that ball off of him. And once he did I was like get on this ball and end the game.”
Carter had a strip sack in the second-half, too.
Wimbush, starting his second game, scored Notre Dame’s only touchdown in the first half on a 1-yard run. He finished 20 for 40 for 210 yards.
“All 11 positions, all the guys were really physical and had speed,” Wimbush said of the Georgia D.
Georgia: Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm was filling in for the injured Jacob Eason and making his first career start. The Bulldogs tried not to put too much on the former Little League World Series hero from Warner Robins, Georgia. He went 16 for 29 for 141 yards with a touchdown pass — thanks to a reaching, one-handed grab by Terry Godwin in the first half — and two turnovers.
“Good poise,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of Fromm. “He never faltered.”
Notre Dame: The Irish were looking for a big early season win to accelerate the process of moving on from last year’s 4-8 disappointment. There were reasons to be encouraged, especially from a defense that hung tough against one of the best running-back combinations in the country in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The Bulldogs ran for 185 yards, but only 4.3 per carry.
Still, it was another one-possession loss after seven of them last season. Coach Brian Kelly became curt when asked why this loss should be viewed differently.
“It’s not going to snowball,” he said. “Next question.”
LOTS OF LAUNDRY
Georgia was flagged 12 times for 127 yards. Notre Dame was hit eight times for 63, including a late hit in the third quarter on Fromm by Julian Okwara that officials video reviewed to determine if Fromm was still in bounds when he was hit. The call stood and converted a third down for Georgia, and the Bulldogs scored on the drive to go up 17-16.
Georgia sold 8,000 tickets for this game and there was easily twice that many wearing red in Notre Dame Stadium. For former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, who won the school’s only national title by beating Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl, it was the best part of the trip to South Bend.
“I was just saying what a beautiful scenery it is right outside looking out and seeing Touchdown Jesus and the Golden Dome overlooking the campus. And then seeing those beautiful golden helmets shining. Of course, I like the red ones, too,” said Dooley, who threw out the first pitch at the Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field on Friday night. “And seeing so many Georgia people here. That’s what’s really been amazing.”
Georgia: The Bulldogs return home to face FCS team Sanford, before starting SEC play against Mississippi State the next week.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish face Boston College in the first of two straight road games.