ATHENS — Georgia ran out of scholarships for receivers when Lawrence Cager was coming out of high school at Calvert Hall in Maryland, but the Bulldogs found room for him this offseason.
It’s a good thing they did.
Cager came up big in the clutch for No. 3-ranked Georgia in a 23-17 win over Notre Dame last Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
“This is one of my favorite games, I’d say,” said Cager, who turned in a 5-catch, 82-yard performance that included what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a gyrating 15-yard catch with 13:19 remaining.
“Every game you come out, being a senior, every game is a big moment for me,” he said. “I treat every game like it’s go time.”
Cager came up big on the Bulldogs’ first TD drive, too, reeling in a 14-yard catch on a third-and-9. Two plays later, D’Andre Swift scored to tie up the game at 7-7.
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“He’s a guy who has worked, we’ve been working all summer and all fall,” Georgia QB Jake Fromm said. “He’s a guy I can trust in clutch situations.”
Fromm turned to Cager with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, finding the 6-foot-5 target along the left sideline for a 36-yard gain down to the Notre Dame 18.
Cager popped up from that leaping grab and made another catch, a 10-yarder, and three players later made his touchdown catch.
“I read the cover zero blitz I knew Jake was going to go to the boundary and throw the fade, so I just went and got my head around quick,” Cager said. “We’ve been stressing all camp that 50-50 balls aren’t 50-50 balls; they’re 80-20 or 100-percent balls. When the ball is in the air, the ball is yours, you’ve got to go take it.”
Smart was recruiting Cager to Alabama, and at one point Cager was set to announce he was heading to the Tide during the U.S. Army All-American Game.
But at the last second, he changed his mind, and picked Miami where James Coley was offensive coordinator and had been recruiting him.
Smart remembered it well.
“I recruited Cager to Alabama and he came on several visits and had a good relationship with him,” Smart said. “Coley ended up getting him, (Todd) Hartley knew him well, so it was a no-brainer for us.
“Paint the picture: You can go play with a quarterback that’s played, in a place with a deficit at receiver. It was a great match.”
Some of the Georgia players may have looked tight against Notre Dame under the bright lights last Saturday, but not Cager.
“I played in the same prime-time game, same kind of atmosphere,” Cager said, “when they were No. 3 and we were No. 7 at Miami.”
The Hurricanes won the 2017 meeting, 41-8, and Cager carried that confidence over to Saturday night’s game.
“Playing Notre Dame in a prime-time game, I didn’t have any nerves,” Cager said. “I kinda new what the game would be like.”
And Cager knew when it was his time, he’d make the play.
“Jake trusted me to make a play and threw it up,” Cager said. “We were locked in.”