STATS THAT MATTER: A look back at what decided the game between Georgia and Notre Dame

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STATS THAT MATTER: A look back at what decided the game between Georgia and Notre Dame

George Pickens (1), Brian Herrien (35), Prather Hudson (24), Malik Herring (10), and J.R. Reed (20) celebrate after the Dawgs defeat the Fighting Irish 23-17
George Pickens (1), Brian Herrien (35), Prather Hudson (24), Malik Herring (10), and J.R. Reed (20) celebrate after the Dawgs defeat the Fighting Irish 23-17

ATHENS, GA — It didn’t turn into the blowout many national prognosticators had predicted; in fact, the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs were taken down to the proverbial wire by the seventh-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish before pushing their season record to 4-0 with a 23-17 win on Saturday.

For the first time this season, the Bulldogs were tested severely by an opposing team and that is reflected in this week’s Stats That Matter. The gaudy offensive statistics that Georgia compiled against Vanderbilt, Murray State, and Arkansas State are nowhere to be seen in these totals.

But survive, before a record crowd of 93,246 at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium, the Bulldogs did and now, they enjoy an open date this coming weekend before beginning a rugged seven-game SEC slate Oct. 5 at Tennessee.

PLAYS OF 20 PLUS YARDS, OFFENSE AND DEFENSE

This category really is an indication of Georgia’s lack of explosive plays against a pumped-up Irish defense. Entering the final quarter, the Bulldogs did not show a single 20-yard gainer on the night. But on the first play of the fourth period, Jake Fromm passed 36 yards to Lawrence Cager and that lone 20-plus play would lead to a brilliant 15-yard touchdown reception by Cager. In contrast, the passing arm of Ian Booker produced plays of 28, 23, 20, 31 and 23 for Notre Dame.

UNTIMELY MISTAKES

Before he exited the game with an injury, offensive guard Solomon Kindley was whistled for a holding call, cornerback D.J. Daniel was tagged for pass interference, Justin Shaffer filling in for Kindley drew an unnecessary roughness penalty and then there were several false starts by the Bulldogs, who totaled six penalties for 43 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS WINS VS. MISCUES

This area could have cost the Bulldogs the football game Saturday evening. Normally sure-handed punt returner Tyler Simmons couldn’t pull an Irish kick in at Georgia’s own 8-yard line; Notre Dame recovered and then, after good resistance by the Bulldog defense, punched in the first touchdown of the night. Then it was a tough night for UGA punter Jake Camarda as he gave the Irish excellent field position by shanking kicks of 25 and 27 yards. On the positive side, the 40, 31 and 43-yard field goals by Rodrigo Blankenship proved the difference in the game for Georgia.

MISSED TACKLES

The Bulldogs’ defense was excellent against the Irish run game, limiting Notre Dame to just 46 yards net rushing. But Irish tight end Cole Kmet and the ND receivers were able to escape first hits in the Georgia secondary and produce big first downs for the Irish.

TURNOVERS (GAINED/LOST)

Redshirt freshman Divaad Wilson and senior safety J.R. Reed managed huge interceptions of Ian Book for the defense. The Bulldogs bobbled the ball four times but lost it only once, though it was a crucial one … Simmons’ fumbled punt. Jake Fromm wasn’t intercepted in his 26 passing attempts.

The Georgia defense celebrates after senior safety J.R. Reed's (20) interception during the 4th-quarter of the Notre Dame game, Saturday, September 21, 2019
The Georgia defense celebrates after senior safety J.R. Reed’s (20) interception during the 4th-quarter of the Notre Dame game, Saturday, September 21, 2019

RED ZONE (OFFENSE, DEFENSE)

Both teams were perfect in this area, each scoring on all three trips into the red zone with both the Bulldogs and Irish cashing in two touchdowns and one field goal.

THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS

In contrast to their red zone showings, not a good look here. The Bulldogs converted first downs on just 4-of-11 third-down opportunities while the Irish were even worse against the Georgia defense, going 4-of-13.

RUN, PASS ATTEMPTS (TOTAL PLAYS)

As the final score would indicate this was nearly dead even. The Bulldogs ran 59 plays for 339 total yards (152 rushing, 187 passing) while Notre Dame ran 61 plays for 321 yards (46 rushing, 275 passing).

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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.