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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, September 10, 2017 1:10 am

Irish sacked by Bulldogs

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND – What a disappointment it was for Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame’s preseason All-American at left tackle.

With under two minutes remaining Saturday night, Georgia’s Davin Bellamy blew by McGlinchey to sack Brandon Wimbush and strip the ball free, and Lorenzo Carter recovered the fumble to preserve the Bulldogs’ 20-19 victory at Notre Dame Stadium.

"I blew it," McGlinchey said. "No excuses. I got beat."

Cheers erupted immediately from Georgia’s large contingent of fans, knowing their team could simply kneel three times after the turnover to drain the remaining 1:27 off the clock. It was the final example of how the 15th-ranked Bulldogs took over Notre Dame Stadium.

Critics will say, "Same old Irish." They went 4-8 last year and continually found ways to lose close games, just like this one.

"It's not going to snowball," an agitated Brian Kelly said when asked if it would. "Next question."

Notre Dame's coach acknowledged the loss "stings" but praised his team's effort.

"I'm proud of my team," Kelly said. "Played hard. They are going to learn from this game and they are going to grow from it, and they are going to be better because of it."

A 30-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship with 3:34 remaining provided the 20-19 lead, and Georgia’s defense, which forced Notre Dame to be a one-dimensional offense, held twice.

The 24th-ranked Irish (1-1) lacked any semblance of a running game after averaging 9.6 yards per carry in their season opener, a 49-16 win over Temple that felt like a scrimmage compared to the rough-and-tumble affair with Georgia.

"I never played against a team with speed like that," Wimbush said. "All 11 positions were really physical."

Josh Adams, who had 161 yards rushing against Temple, finished with just 53 on 19 carries and had to make his biggest contribution in the passing game with six catches for 60 yards.

Georgia (2-0) trailed 13-10 at halftime before taking its first lead, 17-16, on Sony Michel’s 6-yard touchdown run with 4:34 left in the third quarter. The Irish would go ahead once more, 19-17 on Justin Yoon’s 28-yard field goal, before breaking down completely.

Notre Dame’s final three drives resulted in two punts and the turnover with Bellamy and Carter on the pass rush.

"It's awful, awful," McGlinchey said. "We had them, for the most part, where we wanted them all game. I told (Wimbush), 'I'm sorry.' I didn't do my job, and that's not on Brandon Wimbush."

The key play in the first half, resulting in a 10-10 score, was Terry Godwin running a fade on Notre Dame’s Julian Love in the end zone and making a brilliant one-handed catch. The ball never even touched his other hand. Love immediately signaled incomplete, and so did the nearest official, but that call was overturned on replay. It was a 5-yard touchdown pass for Jake Fromm.

Filling in for sophomore Jacob Eason, the freshman Fromm completed 16 of 29 passes for 141 yards with the one score and an interception when Drue Tranquill undercut tight end Isaac Nauta in the first half.

"I thought Fromm played with good poise," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "I never felt like it got too big for him. You have got to figure he's going to grow a lot from playing in this kind of atmosphere and environment."

Georgia’s vaunted running game came through to an extent. Michel had 13 carries for 73 yards, and Nick Chubb had 13 runs for 63 yards.

"We played well enough defensively," Kelly said, "for us to say we've put our defense now in a position that we can play with anyone."

Wimbush, who had a 1-yard TD run for a 10-3 second-quarter lead, completed just 20 of 40 throws for 210 yards. He didn't have his No. 1 receiver, Equanimeous St. Brown, because the Bulldogs limited St. Brown to two catches for 16 yards.

"I've just got to understand where the pressure is coming from and put my guys in the right position to make the block," Wimbush said, "and I think we would have been fine."

The Irish, who play on the road next Saturday against Boston College, have now lost 11 of their past 16 games against ranked teams.

“This isn't going to stop us," Adams said. "We're going to win the big game next time."

cgoff@jg.net