No. 3 Georgia hangs on to beat No. 7 Notre Dame 23-17

No. 3 Georgia scored 16 straight points and then held on to beat No. 7 Notre Dame 23-17 in Athens on Saturday night.

After a scoreless first quarter, Notre Dame took a 7-0 lead against the Bulldogs in the second period and a late field goal led to a 10-7 Irish lead at halftime. That was the high point for Notre Dame.

Georgia tied the game on its second drive of the second half and then took a 13-10 lead on the second. After Notre Dame punted for the second time in the half, Georgia started to throw downfield. And that’s when things were over for the Irish.

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Jake Fromm found Miami grad transfer Lawrence Cager for a 15-yard touchdown with just over 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter to give the Bulldogs a 20-10 lead. The TD came at the end of an eight-play, 82-yard drive as Fromm and Georgia realized the benefits of throwing passes that traveled more than 15 yards downfield.

Fromm was 11-of-12 passing in the first half of the game. But all of those throws were for minimal yardage. He had 59 yards passing at halftime. It was no coincidence that Georgia’s offense took off as he started to accrue more yardage through the air. Just look at what his stats were like midway through the fourth quarter.

Jake Fromm starting throwing downfield and then Georgia took the lead on Notre Dame. (via CBS)
Jake Fromm starting throwing downfield and then Georgia took the lead on Notre Dame. (via CBS)

But Notre Dame didn’t go away. The Irish scored a touchdown to pull within six with over three minutes to go. And thanks to Georgia’s newfound love of the pass and an incompletion on third down, the Irish got the ball back near midfield after a shanked punt with the chance to score a touchdown for the win.

That didn’t happen. Ian Book’s fourth-down heave to Chase Claypool fell incomplete.

Notre Dame wasn’t overmatched

The Irish played so much better than it did against Clemson in the College Football Playoff at the end of the 2018 season. Notre Dame took the early lead after Georgia fumbled a punt deep in Bulldog territory in the second quarter and were the superior team through the first 30 minutes.

But Notre Dame made a costly mistake of its own early in the third quarter. The Irish started the second half with the ball but Ian Book threw a third down interception to Divaad Wilson. That led to Georgia tying the game at 10-10 and Notre Dame never led the game again as Georgia’s offense became multi-dimensional.

Notre Dame cornerback Shaun Crawford (20) tackles Georgia wide receiver Dominick Blaylock (8) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Notre Dame cornerback Shaun Crawford (20) tackles Georgia wide receiver Dominick Blaylock (8) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“That’s what college football’s all about,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said after the game. “I hate that somebody had to lose that game because I had a lot of respect for the way they played and a lot of the negative things they’ve heard, and come out and play they way they did. They played really physical as a team. And so did we.”

Despite the loss, Notre Dame still has an outside shot at the College Football Playoff. The Irish face No. 21 Virginia next week and also have No. 11 Michigan and USC remaining on the schedule. But Notre Dame has to win all three of those games — in addition to every other game — and hope that USC is the team that it showed it was against No. 10 Utah on Friday night and Michigan isn’t the team it showed it was in an embarrassing road loss at Wisconsin earlier Saturday.

That’s a tall task. But it’s not impossible. Notre Dame’s chances for the playoff aren’t great. But they’re also nonexistent.

Georgia is a legit contender

The respect that Georgia had as a potential playoff team was evident in the two-touchdown points spread entering the game. And while Georgia didn’t cover that line on Saturday night, there was nothing that happened Saturday that showed Georgia may not be one of the four best teams in the country.

The Bulldogs have two top-10 teams remaining on their schedule in No. 8 Auburn and No. 9 Florida along with No. 17 Texas A&M. And thanks to the potential of a victory in the SEC Championship Game, Georgia has a better chance of getting to the playoff with a regular-season loss than the Irish do.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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