‘World of difference’ in the Jake Fromm Notre Dame will see this time around
ATHENS — Jake Fromm chuckled when asked to reflect on his last performance against Notre Dame, back in 2017.
“I didn’t think I played my best game at all,” said Fromm, who quarterbacked a 20-19 win over the Irish in South Bend in his first start as a true freshmen. “I just put it on Nick and Sony’s backs and said, ‘Hey guys you gotta help me out here.’ ”
Two years later, it’s Fromm leading the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs into a national showdown with No. 7 Notre Dame at 8 p.m. on Saturday night in Sanford Stadium.
“There’s a world of difference,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said, comparing the current version of Fromm to the true freshman of two years ago. “He was a young, nervous, composed freshman, and now he’s a confident, experienced junior, and he continues to get better, he makes good decisions.”
The numbers reflect as much. Fromm entered the 2019 campaign with the second-highest pass efficiency rating of returning quarterbacks, and he’s currently 8th in the nation with 5 TD passes, no interceptions and a 194.60 mark.
Irish coach Brian Kelly said he isn’t surprised, having recognized Fromm’s ability in the teams’ first meeting.
“I thought he was extremely efficient, he took care of the football,” Kelly said on his Sunday teleconference. “You get a glimpse at somebody when they are freshman, and when they exhibit those sort of traits, you know you’re gonna have somebody that’s going to be a special payer.
“So I got a glimpse of that the first night we saw him when he played with such poise, such confidence — he wasn’t afraid of the moment. He stepped up big. So it doesn’t surprise me he’s playing at the level he’s playing at.”
The Bulldogs relied on the legs of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in that last win over Notre Dame, the duo combining for 136 yards on 26 attempts.
But Fromm — 16-of-29 for 141 yards with a TD an interception in the last meeting — delivered when called upon. Fromm directed the game-winning field goal drive in the the final minutes, connecting on 3 of 4 passes for 45 yards to set up Rodrigo Blankenship’s 30-yard go-ahead field goal with 3:34 left.
The Georgia defense forced a fumble on the ensuing possession, Lorenzo Carter recovering at the Notre Dame 25, and Fromm and the Bulldogs ran out the clock.
“The defense played great that night, and it was just unbelievable,” Fromm said. “Now they come here and we’ll be ready to play, got to go to work this week.”
Fromm wasn’t caught up in the hype that comes with playing Notre Dame back then, and he’s certainly not now.
“It’s just a football game, I’ve been playing football since I was 7 years old, you can make it as big as you want to make it,” Fromm said, asked at SEC Media Day if beating Notre Dame set the tone for the 2017 season. “I had great teammates around me so I just followed them.”
Fromm’s approach has remained the same with the big game week finally here.
“You really don’t worry about the atmosphere, what it’s going to be like,” Fromm said. “You know it’s going to be one of the biggest games ever, but you just don’t think about it that way, just come in and go to work.”
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