It’s not every day that the Georgia Bulldogs make a trip north to play college football, but they made the journey to South Bend hoping to come away victorious against a Top 25 Notre Dame football team. They did just that. The Bulldogs won 20-19 and here are the grades from a game that Georgia fans will remember for years to come.
Freshman Jake Fromm made his first career start on the road inside Notre Dame Stadium, came away victorious, but somehow managed to grade out with a ‘C’. While the true freshman made some great plays for the Dawgs, he also made some true freshman mistakes that were bound to happen against a team like the Fighting Irish. Fromm completed 16-29 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown, but also threw an interception while trying to move the ball downfield during a two-minute drill. Some of the incompletions were not his fault, though. Wide receivers Mecole Hardman and Javon Wims both dropped possible touchdown passes. There were other drops as well. Fromm was also sacked twice, but he did the right thing in both instances by taking the sack instead of trying to force the ball into a tight window and risking a potential turnover. Also, the fumble between Fromm and Nick Chubb definitely was not Fromm’s best play of the night. Last but not least, Fromm lead four different scoring drives on the night and each was longer than sixty yards. For it being Fromm’s first career start, he could have done some things better, but overall, the freshman showed leadership amongst his peers and earned a lot of respect from fans and analysts alike.
PHOTOS: UGA vs. Notre Dame
Running Backs- B-
This was a true test of endurance for the running backs due to the fact that the offensive line did not perform up to expectations. They really had to find their own running lanes for most of the game. Sony Michel led the group with 73 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown, while Chubb had 63 yards on 13 carries. Chubb had a nice 30-yard run early in the first quarter, but that was the last big play the senior had for the game. Michel scored his lone touchdown in the third quarter, but never got to break off a big run. Freshman D’Andre Swift had a nice 40-yard run right before the touchdown run by Michel that got the Dawgs inside the red zone. The running backs did accumulate 185 total rushing yards for the game, but it never seemed like they truly took control at any point, which would have taken pressure off of a first-time starter at quarterback.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends- B-
First off, the touchdown catch by wide receiver Terry Godwin was unbelievable. The way that he was able to secure the ball with one hand, after bobbling it, was by far the best catch of the season for the Dawgs, and probably the best catch of any Bulldog since A.J. Green’s unreal catch against Colorado in 2010. The only other play that sticks out as a real positive was the 31-yard snag by Javon Wims that helped put the Dawgs into field goal range late in the fourth quarter to secure the victory. There were dropped passes that should have been caught throughout the game. Maybe offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is trying to make the playbook smaller for his freshman quarterback, but the route trees for the wide receivers do not seem to be nearly as big as they were last season, and that is hurting the receivers in their abilities to get open.
Offensive Line- D
It was a rough game for the offensive line, and that is putting it mildly. After turning in a solid performance against Appalachian State last week, the five-man front for the Dawgs had a hard time trying to create running lanes for the tailbacks against the Fighting Irish. The Notre Dame defense was not great up front; they weren’t even one of the top five defensive fronts that the Bulldogs are going to face this year, and somehow they made the Dawgs look incompetent in the trenches at times. The interior of the line got bullied and made it almost impossible to try and get any type of positive movement up front. Isaiah Wynn and Andrew Thomas, the two tackles, did a decent job of keeping the edge rushers for Notre Dame at bay, but even they had their fair share of problems throughout the game.
Defensive Line- A
New defensive line coach Tray Scott has to be excited after watching his unit dominate against what was supposed to be the best offensive line the Bulldogs were going to face all year. Nose guard John Atkins only had three tackles on the stat sheet, but he demanded double teams throughout the game due to his ability to generate movement up front against Notre Dame’s interior offensive linemen. Tyler Clark, Trenton Thompson, and Jonathan Ledbetter all registered tackles in the game, and seemed to always be in the backfield chasing down Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush. The unit, along with the linebackers, held Notre Dame to just 55 rushing yards on 37 attempts. Yes, you read that correctly. The Irish managed just 1.5 yards per carry for a team that had three 100-yard rushers the week previous against the Temple Owls. The only bad thing for the Dawgs up front were the two hands-to-the-face penalties on sophomore Julian Rochester which extended drives.
This is my third season grading the Dawgs, and this is by far the best performance out of any position group that I can recall in that timeframe. Middle linebacker Roquan Smith just shot up NFL draft boards after his performance against the Fighting Irish. The junior linebacker tallied 7 tackles and one sack, but was all over the field. At one point during the first quarter, Smith had three tackles in a row, one being a sack, single-handedly forcing Notre Dame to punt. Smith wasn’t the only linebacker to have an All-SEC type performance. Seniors Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter decided to come back to UGA instead of declaring for the NFL draft, and they both had one of the best games of their careers. Bellamy forced the game-clinching fumble late in the fourth quarter and did an excellent job of stopping the read-option. Carter forced two fumbles, recovering one, had seven tackles, a sack, and was constantly in the backfield disrupting any type of momentum. Freshman Walter Grant also had a tackle for loss in the first quarter. The linebackers won this game for the Bulldogs, no question.
Defensive Backs- B-
This grade would be higher if it weren’t for all of the penalties. The defensive backs gave up 60 yards due to penalties alone, which is absolutely unacceptable moving forward. Luckily for them, they were able to keep Wimbush from ever getting into a groove, but that was also due to the fact that Georgia’s defensive line and linebackers were in the backfield for most of the game. The secondary also had what looked to be three interceptions that were dropped. On the bright side, the secondary did a great job of limiting talented wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown to just two catches and that was no easy task, as St. Brown was targeted eight times. Also, JR Reed, the transfer from Tulsa, led the team in tackles with 9 and looks to be a true force in stopping the run as well. Overall, the secondary did a good job of limiting the big plays and didn’t allow a touchdown pass, but the penalties kept too many drives alive for the Fighting Irish.
Special Teams: B+
Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship went 2-3 on his field goal attempts and kicked the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter. Also, he announced to his teammates in the locker room after the game that he had been placed on scholarship. Blankenship’ distance on kickoffs was not as good this week as last. Graduate transfer punter Cam Nizialek punted eight times for an average of 44 yards, with four of his punts being downed inside the twenty. While Nizialek looked better last week, it still has to be a sigh of relief for Georgia fans knowing that they have a dependable punter who they can count on each week. Running back Elijah Holyfield broke free on a kickoff return, but the play was negated by a hold by defensive back Jarvis Wilson. The kickoff and punt coverage teams were zooming around the field and did a great job of limiting the amount of yards gained by Notre Dame’s returners, which helped with field position throughout the game. This unit, so far, looks to be a strong point for the Dawgs, which is completely different from last year.
Paul Maharry writes for UGASports.com