ATHENS, Ga. — This is what J.R. Reed signed up for.
Georgia's redshirt sophomore defensive back made his long-awaited debut for the Southeastern Conference program last Saturday night inside Sanford Stadium, collecting five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in the 31-10 win over Appalachian State. This week, the 6-foot-1, 194-pounder from Frisco, Texas, will join the Bulldogs on their first-ever trip to Notre Dame.
The son of former Minnesota Vikings receiver Jake Reed began his college career at Tulsa in 2015 and sat out last season after transferring.
"This is what you dream of, playing in front of 93,000, and then getting to go up to South Bend and playing a good, historic team like that," Reed said. "Last week was amazing. It felt like home. I really loved the crowd. It was an adrenaline rush running out.
"My heart was beating out of my chest, but after I got that first hit, everything just settled in, and it was easy from there."facebook
Appalachian State made the first big play in Saturday's opener when Mountaineers quarterback Taylor Lamb ran 32 yards on a keeper to Georgia's 41-yard line. On the ensuing snap, Reed raced in and sacked Lamb at midfield, causing a fumble that Lamb scrambled back to recover at his 37.
The impact of Reed's forced fumble became magnified when the Mountaineers did not pass Georgia's 40 until intercepting backup quarterback Brice Ramsey at the Bulldogs' 21 with 6:38 remaining in a 31-0 game.
"He's one of those guys who's a student of the game," senior outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said of Reed. "He's an older guy, too, so he definitely has the knowledge. He's just stepped into a role that he was ready for and is playing ball."
Reed played the "star" position against the Mountaineers, a spot that was held last season by Alabama graduate transfer Maurice Smith. Reed and sophomore defensive tackle Tyler Clark were the only new starters on Georgia's defense last week, though Clark played in all 13 games a year ago.
The veteran defense was able to overwhelm Appalachian State's offensive line, but that may not be the case this week.
Notre Dame's offensive front is beyond massive with left tackle Mike McGlinchey (6-8, 315), left guard Quenton Nelson (6-5, 330), center Sam Mustipher (6-2, 305), right guard Alex Bars (6-6, 312) and right tackle Tommy Kraemer (6-6, 314). App State's starting center weighs 260 pounds.
The Fighting Irish opened with a 49-16 dismantling of Temple last week, rushing for 422 yards and averaging 9.6 yards per carry.
"They've got three good, physical backs, and four counting the quarterback, because he really runs well," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "They are a big, physical football team. Across the front, they're the biggest team we'll play when they line up. Their tight ends are huge.
"They would probably say the same thing about us, but I don't know if our guys are quite as big as their guys are."
Georgia defenders talked in the offseason about having a special unit, and they got off to a good start, holding the run-heavy Mountaineers to 89 rushing yards through three quarters. Saturday will be a more challenging test in a much more difficult environment.
"We could have played better, but with the guys we have back and how we've practiced, it was kind of expected," Bellamy said. "We really just went out there and did our jobs.
"We're looking forward to going to this hostile environment. We love to be road warriors. It's going to be a physical game, and that's my style of game."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.