Saturday’s Notre Dame-Georgia showdown will feature some unique northern exposure for the Bulldogs, but hopefully discontinue some recent “northern hospitality” by the Fighting Irish on the field of play.
Many Fighting Irish followers might remember the infamous “Sea of Red” game at Notre Dame Stadium in 2000, when an enormous contingent of Nebraska fans almost made it seem like a Cornhuskers home game.
Georgia is looking to do a sequel to that Sea of Red. The Bulldogs received 8,000 tickets from Notre Dame and an additional 400 went to the Redcoat Band, but reports are surfacing that the secondary ticket market could result in at least 20,000-plus Bulldogs faithful piling into Notre Dame Stadium, which now holds a capacity of 77,622.
There are at least two reasons why the demand is so great. One, this is the first time since a 15-7 victory at Michigan in 1965 that a Georgia football team is playing north of the Mason-Dixon line.
Two, it is Georgia’s first visit to Notre Dame, which is still respected ground in college football despite mainly mediocre results by the Fighting Irish the past 23 years.
This year, Georgia joins Miami (Ohio) and North Carolina State as first-time visitors to Notre Dame Stadium. Unfortunately, the Irish have been a way too hospitable host to first-timers over the last decade.
Since the opening of Notre Dame Stadium in 1930, 14 out of 74 different opponents won on their first visit here. Five of them have occurred since 2009:
• Connecticut 2009 — A 33-30 double-overtime win by the Huskies in which the Irish jumped out to an early 14-0 lead before collapsing in what would be Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis’ final home game.
• Tulsa 2010 — In Brian Kelly’s first season as head coach, the Irish dropped to 4-5 when the Golden Hurricanes rallied from a 27-18 deficit for a 28-27 win, including converting a third-and-26 on the game-winning drive and intercepting a Notre Dame pass into the end zone in the closing seconds.
• South Florida 2011 — In a surreal atmosphere that led to an evacuation of Notre Dame Stadium because of heavy storms and lightning, head coach Skip Holtz’s USF Bulls, who would finish 5-7, took advantage of five Irish turnovers in the 23-20 upset in the opener.
• Louisville 2014 — Although the Cardinals would start freshman Reggie Bonnafon at quarterback (he would later move to wide receiver), they pulled off a 31-28 upset on Senior Day, the third straight Irish loss.
• Virginia Tech 2016 — Notre Dame built a 17-0 cushion, but once again on Senior Day could not hold on in the 34-31 defeat, the fifth loss that season when the Irish were ahead in the fourth quarter.
Yet another such result versus first-time visitor Georgia might have many an Irish follower seeing red in more ways than one.