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Georgia football winners and losers after win over Notre Dame
Winner: J.R. Reed
Loser: Georgia football special teams not involving Rodrigo Blankenship
Once again, Rodrigo Blankenship was outstanding. He nailed all three of his field-goal attempts and five of his six kickoff attempts went for touchbacks.
But the rest of Georgia’s special teams were atrocious. Tyler Simmons muffed a punt, which gifted Notre Dame an eventual touchdown. He was replaced by freshman Dominick Blaylock. He didn’t fumble the ball, but he did misread a Notre Dame punt and the subsequent roll pushed Georgia farther back.
Punter Jake Camarda struggled as well as he had punts of 25 and 27 yards. The latter came on Georgia’s penultimate offensive possession and gave Notre Dame great field position for its final offensive drive. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the defense was able to stymie the Notre Dame offense once more.
Kirby Smart routinely mentions how important special teams are to him and the team. That aspect of the game actively hurt Georgia on Saturday. Yes, the game had a College Football Playoff feel. But if Georgia’s non-Blankenship special teams units play as they did on Saturday against Alabama or Clemson, Georgia might not be so lucky to come out on top.
Related: Georgia report card: Bulldogs overcome mistakes in 23-17 win over Notre Dame
Winner: Jake Fromm
Fromm had the most impressive 187-yard passing performance you will ever see. The aerial display might not have as much sizzle as a Tua Tagovailoa or Joe Burrow laser show, but Fromm was in complete control of the Georgia offense against Notre Dame.
He completed 20 of his 26 pass attempts for only the aforementioned 187 yards. But his second-half performance ultimately ended up being the difference in the game. He completed 9 of his 14 pass attempts in the half for 126 yards and an unreal touchdown pass and catch to Lawrence Cager. Fromm arguably could’ve had an even better day if his wide receivers had been able to haul in some passes that hit their hands.
Fromm — as is usually the case — looked his best when operating at a faster pace. Notre Dame knew this was going to be a problem and ultimately had to result to some unsportsmanlike tactics to try and slow down Fromm.
Related: Notre Dame coach bristles when asked about his players faking injuries vs. UGA
Defensively, Notre Dame did a lot of things similar to what LSU did a season ago. It loaded the box and the Fighting Irish were constantly bringing safeties up to stop the run. This meant that Fromm would need to complete some low percentage throws to his wide receivers in man coverage.
A year ago, he didn’t do that as he went 16 of 34 and was picked twice against the Tigers. On Saturday, he came through for the Bulldogs.
“Jake takes things that are broken and fixes them.” Smart said. “He makes wrongs right. I’m glad he’s on our team because he’s a leader, he’s a commander in chief. The guy makes good decisions.”
Notre Dame’s Book was picked twice on Saturday night and those interceptions led to 6 Georgia points. Fromm didn’t turn the ball over once. The winning margin in the game was those same 6 points.
Loser: Kirby Smart’s conservative style of play
With Georgia leading 20-10 in the fourth quarter, Kirby Smart was faced with a tough decision. Go for it on fourth and one with just over 7 minutes to go or kick a 43-yard field goal. Notre Dame was still going to need two scores in the game, though a field goal by Georgia would necessitate those two scores be Notre Dame touchdowns.