South Bend, Ind.—It is something every new coach knows he must have. He also knows that he will not be validated until he gets it.
It is a signature victory. It is the victory in the life of a young coach where the fan base says “Ah, hah! This guy knows what he is doing. He is going to be okay.”
One year and one game into his first head coaching job at Georgia, Kirby Smart was still in search of his signature victory. Last season his team lost to Tennessee on a Hail Mary pass at the final horn, pretty much got kicked around against Florida in Jacksonville, and lost to Georgia Tech by blowing a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Yeah, there were close road wins at Missouri and Kentucky but those don’t get it done. Those are games you’re supposed to win at a place like Georgia. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Saturday night, in Georgia’s first-ever trip to Notre Dame, the Bulldogs walked onto the field as a 4-point underdog, overcame turnovers and 12 penalties, and walked out of there with a 20-19 victory. At least 30,000 Georgia fans made their presence felt and went home Sunday with memories they will cherish forever.
When the final seconds ticked off the clock, Smart and his players sprinted to the South end of Notre Dame Stadium which was a sea of red.
“I really want to thank our fans,” Smart said to reporters after the game. “What were there, 30 or 40 thousand? That had an impact on the game. I know it affected our players. They gave us incredible support.”
“It was like playing a home game,” said linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who recovered a fumble by Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush which sealed the Georgia victory with 1:27 left. “We have the best fans in the world.”
Georgia, picked to win the SEC East, plays Samford at home on Saturday and then hosts Mississippi State to open the conference season on Sept. 23.
Here are some other Things We Learned on Week 2.
TIME TO GIVE SOME LOVE TO LAMAR JACKSON
I don’t know why Lamar Jackson, the returning Heisman Trophy winner, didn’t get a whole lot of hype in the preseason. It probably had something to do with the way Louisville finished the 2016 season (with three straight losses) and the remorse some voters had because Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, who was clearly the best player in the country last season, did not win.
The truth is it doesn’t matter. The truth is that after Jackson’s first two games this season he has made history. With 393 yards passing and 132 yards rushing against North Carolina, Jackson became the first quarterback from a Power 5 team to throw for 300 and rush for over 100 in consecutive games. He has 1,010 total yards in his first two games.
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora is convinced that Jackson is a pro.
“He sat back and threw the ball like he was in the NFL,” said Fedora. “He made great passes. People talk about him not being that type of quarterback. They’re wrong. He can throw the football.”
Louisville hosts No. 3 Clemson on Saturday. If Jackson puts up big numbers on that defense he’ll be the favorite to win the Heisman again.
IS AUBURN’S OFFENSE THAT BAD OR IS CLEMSON’S DEFENSE THAT GOOD?
With transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham and new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was supposed to open up the offense this season. Malzahn promised that he was going to turn the keys to the car over to Lindsey to add some bells and whistles to Auburn’s attack. But, as my friend Barrett Sallee of CBSSports.com wrote, you have to wonder if Gus made a duplicate set of keys and kept them.
Clemson won a hard-fought 14-6 game at Death Valley Saturday night. Auburn was held to two field goals by a Clemson defense that may have the best front seven in college football. Auburn gave up 11 sacks and was held to only 117 yards of total offense, easily Malzahn’s worst offensive game since he became head coach at Auburn in 2013.
Stidham completed just 13 of 24 passes for 79 yards, not what Auburn fans were expecting when he transferred from Baylor.
“Jarrett just needs experience,” Malzahn said.
He better get it this week against Mercer because the Tigers open their SEC season on Sept. 23 at Missouri.
DON’T KICK IT TO DEEBO
Coaches watch film of an opponent’s previous games in order to plan what to do—or what not to do--against them.
The special teams coaches at Missouri must have missed the opening kickoff of the South Carolina-N.C. State on Sept. 2 in Charlotte. Deebo Samuel took that one 97 yards to the house.
On Saturday Missouri took a 10-0 lead on South Carolina after a 61-yard touchdown pass by Drew Lock. The ensuing kickoff went to Samuel, who again took it 97 yards for a touchdown. It completely flipped the momentum of the game and South Carolina went on to win 31-13.
“No. 1 (Samuel) is a special guy when he gets the ball in his hands,” said fellow receiver Bryan Edwards.
**--Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons realized a defensive lineman’s dream when he scored two touchdowns in a 57-21 win over Louisiana Tech. Simmons blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone. Then he scooped up a fumble and ran it 90 yards for another score.
Mississippi State hosts No. 12 LSU on Saturday.
**--Tennessee and Florida officials are discussing contingency plans if Saturday’s game cannot be played in Gainesville, Fla., due to the impact of Hurricane Irma. One of the options being discussed is playing the game in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
**--A difficult week at Texas A&M—which included Aggies’ coach Kevin Sumlin getting a racist letter—ended with a difficult 24-14 win over Nicholls State. The game was tied 14-14 midway through the fourth quarter. Senior quarterback Jake Hubenak, who didn’t play in the collapse against UCLA, came off the bench in the third quarter to replace freshman Kellen Mond and finished the game. The Aggies have another cupcake in Louisiana-Lafayette this week and open the SEC season on Sept. 23 against Arkansas in Arlington, Tex.
**--Quarterback Kyle Shurmur completed 15 of 18 passes (including 12 of his first 12) to set a Vanderbilt record for passing accuracy in a 42-0 win over Alabama A&M. The Commodores are 2-0 and will host Kansas State and Coach Bill Snyder on Saturday in Nashville. [/membership]