Five defining plays from Notre Dame's win over Georgia Tech

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Defining plays are easy to find in a big win. Here are five from Saturday’s 30-22 Notre Dame victory over Georgia Tech.

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1. Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith recovers a fumble by quarterback Justin Thomas and returns it 17 yards on Georgia Tech’s first series of the second half.

The Irish defense proved the first half wasn’t a fluke when Smith scooped up a fumble from the Yellow Jackets. Safety Matthias Farley, who replaced Drue Tranquill following his knee injury late in the first half, came down from the secondary unblocked and forced Thomas inside toward Smith. Farley and Smith combined to make the tackle when the ball popped loose.

Smith didn’t gain enough speed to return the fumble for a touchdown, but it set the Irish up for a field goal from Justin Yoon. Smith forced a Patrick Skov fumble earlier in the game, but Skov was able to fall back on it for the recovery.

Notre Dame’s defense maintained control of the explosive Georgia Tech offense until surrendering two touchdowns in a disappointing final minute.

2. Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise breaks free for a 91-yard touchdown run to put Notre Dame ahead 30-7 with 6:58 left in the fourth quarter.

Prosise’s big-play ability made him a perfect complement to starting running back Tarean Folston. But with Folston out for the season, Prosise has shown he can be a 1-2 punch on his own. Prosise pounded away for 107 yards on his first 21 carries and then nearly doubled his output on his last carry.

Prosise showed his patience in running behind left guard Quenton Nelson and tight end Tyler Luatua, who both pulled to the right side to seal off defenders. He hesitated in the hole to freeze defensive lineman Jabari Hunt and exploded through the secondary. Four defenders were even with him as he passed the 20-yard line, but none were able to change direction and keep up with him in his sprint to the end zone.

Prosise finished the game with 198 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns. His 91-yard run qualified as the longest in Notre Dame Stadium history.

3. Notre Dame safety Drue Tranquill tracks down running back Qua Searcy for a four-yard loss on Georgia Tech’s first third down of the game.

This play set the tone for how Notre Dame’s defense would attack the triple-option attack from Georgia Tech. Before the Yellow Jackets could even run the play, quarterback Justin Thomas took a timeout after not being able to set up the play he wanted against Notre Dame’s defensive look.

When play resumed, Notre Dame executed its defense perfectly. Linebacker Joe Schmidt took on a blocker, linebacker Greer Martini dove at Thomas to force a pitch and Tranquill flew down from the secondary to wrap up Searcy for a loss. Rather than let Georgia Tech dictate the game plan, Notre Dame’s defense played aggressively.

Notre Dame would force Georgia Tech to punt after three plays — which it hadn’t done once in its first two games — on the first two drives for the Yellow Jackets.

4. Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller lifts the Irish offense with a 46-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.

Another Notre Dame victory, another big day for Will Fuller. He became Notre Dame’s best receiver last season and is now making a case as the best big-play receiver in college football.

Fuller started the scoring for Notre Dame in the first quarter with this 46-yard reception on third-and-20. He beat cornerback Chris Milton deep but had to come back to catch a slightly underthrown pass from DeShone Kizer. As Milton looked to locate the ball, Fuller leaped to make the catch. Milton was left on the ground reaching for Fuller’s feet as he ran the final five yards.

Fuller recorded six catches for 131 yards and one touchdown in the victory. Fuller is tied with six other players leading the FBS with five touchdown catches.

5. Georgia Tech cornerback D.J. White intercepts a DeShone Kizer pass in the end zone to stop a Notre Dame scoring threat in the second quarter. 

Kizer’s rookie moment could have shifted the momentum of the game. With the Irish set extend their 7-0 lead in the second quarter, Kizer lofted a ball into the end zone that wide receiver Corey Robinson didn’t have a chance of catching. Instead, Georgia Tech cornerback D.J. White made the interception.

Robinson went inside of White, who was receiving help from safety Demond Smith on the inside, but Kizer threw the ball to the back corner of the end zone. He and Robinson were clearly anticipating two different scenarios.

Georgia Tech tied the game on the ensuing drive, but the Irish regained control of the game with their own touchdown before the end of the first half. Kizer’s biggest challenge will be to avoid making mistakes like this one.

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise (20) celebrates a touchdown during the Notre Dame-Georgia Tech NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN