Georgia's football coaches and players were never alone Saturday night during their 20-19 triumph at Notre Dame.
Never even close.
The Chicago Sun Times reported that Bulldogs supporters accounted for nearly 40 percent of the crowd inside Notre Dame Stadium, which gave it the feel of a Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville or a Texas-Oklahoma game in Dallas, where the tickets are split evenly. There was a fan base cheering after every single play, and Georgia coach Kirby Smart said on his postgame radio show that freshman quarterback Jake Fromm didn't have to change his cadence, a requirement at most every Southeastern Conference venue.
"When we pulled up, we thought it was a home game," Smart said. "I am proud of this university, and I am proud of the fact that we've got a fan base that came to this game in droves. It makes us a special place. This was a special trip for our fan base, and we need our fan base to get behind this team, support this team and support this university.facebook
"We've got a lot of projects right now that we're trying to pay for, and these are the kind of games that help you get that done, because they see the promise in the program."
The Bulldogs (2-0), who prevailed on Rodrigo Blankenship's 30-yard field goal with 3:34 to play, climbed from 15th to 13th in The Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday.
Saturday marked Georgia's first trip to South Bend, Ind., and it was the program's first regular-season game outside of the SEC footprint since a 29-27 loss at Colorado in 2010. The Bulldogs lost at Oklahoma State in 2009 and won at Arizona State in 2008, with the latter trip serving as their first regular-season journey out of the region since a 15-7 win at Michigan in 1965, which was Vince Dooley's second of 25 seasons as head coach.
Georgia didn't play outside the Deep South during the 1970s and 1980s because the Bulldogs had nonconference rivalries with Georgia Tech, Clemson and South Carolina, which became an SEC member and an East Division rival of the Bulldogs in 1992. Former athletic director Damon Evans scheduled trips to Arizona State, Oklahoma State and Colorado to "expand Georgia's brand," while current athletic director Greg McGarity is seeking a balance of matchups such as Saturday night with neutral-site games such as the Chick-fil-A Kickoff.
That Notre Dame is just 5-11 in its past 16 games and lost at home last year to Duke, Navy and a Michigan State team that went on to finish 3-9 did not lessen the thrill Georgia coaches, players and fans experienced in the program's first trip north of the Mason-Dixon line in 52 years.
"What a great college game atmosphere," said Smart, who repeatedly admitted his Bulldogs have a lot to clean up. "These kids will remember this game forever, and it will be awesome when they come back to our place in two years. You want these kinds of games."
Said outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter: "Our crowd was huge. I still can't believe we're in Indiana."
Georgia was scheduled to hold its weekly news conference today to recap the victory at Notre Dame and preview this week's game against visiting Samford, but it was scratched Sunday due to the potential of inclement weather from Hurricane Irma. The university is closed today.
Bulldogs senior tailbacks Sony Michel and Nick Chubb combined for 136 yards on 26 carries at Notre Dame, averaging 5.2 yards per carry as a tandem, but freshman D'Andre Swift once again had an impact.
After ripping off a 24-yard run and making a one-handed reception in the opening win over Appalachian State, Swift had a 40-yard run against the Irish, which was the longest run of the night by either team.
"We've got to find a way to get that guy the ball," Smart said. "I know all the fans are out there saying, 'Let number seven touch it,' and so am I. He makes things happen, and I'm proud of him for making that play that kind of changed the momentum of the whole game."
Smart was asked on his radio show what he told the players at halftime. The Bulldogs trailed 13-10 at the break, having committed two turnovers and five penalties for 54 yards.
"I told them that I thought we had the better team," he said. "We thought it going into the game, but we knew it at halftime. We had the more physical team. We could run the ball. We had plays where we gashed them, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot, and that was frustrating.
"We gave them everything that they got. We've got to play better, because we'll play better teams."
Odds and ends
Blankenship, who received a long-awaited scholarship late last week, said Saturday's performance ranked third for him behind last November's games against Kentucky and Auburn. ... Fromm obviously made his first career start, but so did redshirt junior left guard Kendall Baker and freshman Richard LeCounte III, who is playing the "star" position on defense. ... Smart on the Bulldogs and Irish combining to go 7-of-35 on third-down conversions: "It was like the Alabama-LSU game a few years ago (a 9-6 overtime win by the Tigers in Tuscaloosa in 2011) when nobody could score or get a first down."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.