ATHENS — For one night, Sanford Stadium was college football’s hottest club. It had everything. Fighter jets, a light show and something Georgia head coach Kirby Smart had never seen before.
“They impacted the game tonight more than I’ve ever seen a game impacted, not just here but anywhere. They just affected the game with the false starts and everything,” Smart said.
While the Georgia fans have rightfully earned a reputation as some of the best in the country, Saturday night was something different. Georgia brought in extra seats to accommodate the fans and attention that comes with a game between two top-10 teams. And this game was certainly one of the loudest games in Sanford Stadium that anyone can remember.
The game began with a flyover from four F-16 fighter jets and the volume never seemed to get turned down all the way up until the stadium’s PA system was blasting Swag Surfin as the game went final.
But there’s a difference between just being loud and actually being disruptive. That’s the best way to describe the 93,000 fans who crammed Sanford on Saturday night. The Fighting Irish had 6 false start penalties as well as a botched snap on a fourth down in Georgia territory that led to a turnover on downs.
Notre Dame tried experimenting during the game with different snap counts to find something that would work. It never seemed like they were able to figure out Georgia’s crowd noise, even after practicing in its indoor facility this week at 107 decibels.
To give an idea of how loud that is, long exposure to anything over 95 decibels could lead to hearing damage.
“We practiced in a louder environment, we’re very disappointed that we didn’t handle it better,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “They were much more of a coaching — We needed to do a better job of silent cadence longer, they handled it so quickly and so easily.”
Georgia fans tended to be their loudest on third down and it showed. On the day, Notre Dame went 4 of 13 on third down, converting at only a 30 percent rate. Per Smart, that’s the number Georgia aims for in terms of a success rate.
But it wasn’t just enough to be loud in this game. Thanks to some new LED lights installed in the stadium, Georgia was able to turn the game into a full-blown concert.
Georgia fans have made it a tradition to light up the stadium with their cell phones during home night games. They also did it while visiting Notre Dame back in 2017, meaning the fan base had higher expectations to live up to try and top for Saturday’s game.
The Notre Dame fans in attendance knew this was coming and as the light-up process was starting, they tried starting a “Let’s Go Irish,” chant. But it was quickly drowned out by the tens of thousands of screaming Georgia fans.
As you can see in the video below, this might be the best light up effort yet.
Related: WATCH: Georgia fans ‘light up Sanford’ for Notre Dame and it’s epic
After the game, Fromm was asked about how this Notre Dame win stacks up to the 2017 victory. That game — a 20-19 win — was Fromm’s first career start. That result proved to be a harbinger of the great season that followed, as Georgia won the SEC and earned a berth into the College Football Playoff.
But Fromm made a pretty compelling case as to why Saturday’s win will be a more memorable experience.
“This was a really big day for Athens and the University of Georgia. Unbelievable,” Fromm said. “That was what just made the atmosphere unbelievable tonight. It’s going to be a moment I hold forever.”
Going forward, the bar has been set incredibly high for any future home games. This truly was a special day in Sanford Stadium. And it’s going to almost certainly pay dividends, as this win will be a nice card to play when it comes time to discuss who plays in the College Football Playoff.
And it also helps that many of the nation’s top recruits were on hand to see the effort put forth by the Georgia football team and Georgia fans. A total of nine 5-star prospects in either the 2020 or 2021 class were in attendance on Saturday to go along with dozens of highly touted 4-star prospects.
Smart — who is always recruiting — seemed to make a pitch to those prospects while speaking during his post-game press conference. But the people who helped sell — and sell well — Smart’s case was the Georgia football fan base.
“Our fans are by far the best in the country. This is why you come to UGA,” Smart said. “When you get an opportunity to play in an atmosphere like that, an environment like that it was really incredible.”
Georgia football fans earn high praise from Kirby Smart
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