Amidst a raucous Sanford Stadium crowd, Georgia’s on-field product hasn’t been as favorable. Notre Dame leads the home standing Bulldogs 10-7 in a slow-starting contest at the halftime intermission.
Running back D’Andre Swift scored the Bulldogs’ lone touchdown on a 3-yard touchdown plunge. Here are three takeaways from 30 minutes of play.
SPECIAL TEAMS BLUNDERS
Georgia prides itself on the importance and execution of special teams’ units. Through a half against its first formidable opponent in Notre Dame, a series of errors have been important and glaringly detrimental for the Bulldogs.
Bulldogs’ wide receiver Tyler Simmons stood to return a Fighting Irish punt, and muffed it to give the visiting team favorable field position at the 8-yard-line. Georgia pieced together a strong goal-line effort, but tight end Cole Kmet scored on a 1-yard touchdown completion from quarterback Ian Book.
Punter Jake Camarda hasn’t had the best start, either. His first punt was shanked and went for 20 yards, giving Notre Dame starting field position at the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line.
STRUGGLING IN PASS PROTECTION
Through two quarters, one thing shows: Georgia is still developing its passing attack in a game where it must prosper in order for the Bulldogs to win. Quarterback Jake Fromm has a 11 of 12 passing line, but only 59 yards to show for it. Much of that has to do with poor pass protection.
Georgia has tried to execute three screen passes, and the Notre Dame pass rush squashed any hopes of those being successful. Fromm had little time for the play to develop, and quickly released the pass to running back D’Andre Swift for short gains.
Georgia’s offense has been shut down as a result, with only 114 yards and failing to get into Notre Dame territory. However, Georgia closed the first half with a strong drive that had a time of possession of eight minutes, 12 seconds.
CORNERBACK INJURIES LEAD TO PASS COVERAGE WOES
It only took two plays for Georgia starting cornerback Eric Stokes to be planted on the turf with an injury. He walked gingerly to the sideline, then spent time in the locker room. Not the best sign for Georgia after Tyson Campbell didn’t dress out due to a lower-body injury.
Georgia inserted DJ Daniel and Tyrique McGhee at the cornerback spots. Early on, those injuries showed for the Bulldogs.
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book finished the half with 146 yards, and Cole Kmet became a favorable target with three receptions and 33 yards (Georgia might want to cover tight ends because Kmet has 68 yards and a touchdown at the half) on the Fighting Irish’s first drive. Notre Dame was set back by a flurry of penalties — four of which were false-start procedural fouls as a raucous Sanford Stadium crowd played a factor.
Notre Dame’s first touchdown came after the Simmons fumble, and a defensive pass interference call on Daniel set up the scoring play for the Fighting Irish.
Book, on the Fighting Irish’s last drive before the half, drove his team deep into Georgia territory with long pass completions. That quick-moving drive resulted in a 26-yard field goal from kicker Jonathan Doerer.
Georgia did keep the Notre Dame run game in check, however, while collecting only 17 yards. Georgia announced a wholesale change with the defensive starting lineup — freshman Nolan Smith at outside linebacker, junior Malik Herring at defensive end, redshirt freshman Divaad Wilson at the STAR and Daniel manning one of the cornerback positions.
Offensive guard Solomon Kindley went down with a lower-body injury toward the end of the second quarter. He limped off assisted by trainers. Justin Shaffer replaced him.
Swift leads Georgia’s rushing attack with 33 yards and a touchdown, but the Bulldogs have compiled a pedestrian 55.