Georgia coach Kirby Smart watches from the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)
Photo: Joshua L. Jones/AP
Photo: Joshua L. Jones/AP

What Kirby Smart said after UGA’s win over Notre Dame 

Georgia 20, Notre Dame 19

OPENING STATEMENT: Great atmosphere tonight. Shame either team had to lose that game, because it was really hard fought. Got a lot of respect for the program we just played and a lot of respect for the head coach. Got a lot of respect for the team. Also got to admit my respect for our team and the way they competed in the game. It was very sloppy at times, a lot of penalties, we made it as difficult as we could make it, which is frustrating, because we got an opportunity to have a good football team. But we're not going to be able to beat teams that we play down the road if we play the way we played tonight.

On defense, I can't say enough about how hard they played, the toughness, effort, relentless, all the words we talk about, they personified. They kept playing. We got sloppy at times on offense, quarterback got out of rhythm, got to find ways to get number 7 the ball, and I'm not talking about Lorenzo Carter either. But I'm excited for our kids because they have worked really hard and this was a tough game. It was a tough football game. I'll open it up for questions.

Q. Talk about the way your outside linebackers played. Getting that sack off of the player that they got it off at the end that had to be hard to describe.
KIRBY SMART: It was a great play. I actually was trying to get him out of the game, because I thought that they were a little winded. So we played I think two or three times that drive and I always want to have fresh rushers and he gets out there and he outdid the guy. He made a huge play in the game. It changed the game. I thought that play and there was a third and maybe two or three where the quarterback pulled the ball and we had nobody on him and JR Reed came out of nowhere, clipped his legs, brought him to fourth and one or two and they were punting the ball back to us. If they get that first down it was possibly a different ball game. I thought though those two plays were the biggest plays until the game. I didn't have to talk about them on defense tonight. I was talking to the defensive staff about playing hard and they were all in, those guys practiced hard and physical and they played that way. So it was great.

Q. (No microphone. On the play of the defense)
KIRBY SMART: I thought this was huge. That was the plan in the game to make them stay in the pocket, and for the most part we did. There was a little series there late I think they got the last field goal that, a couple runs on third down that we got a little soft in and they hit us on. Luckily we forced them to a field goal. And that quarterback's, he's a good player, he's a really good athlete, he's hard to get down. But I know they were frustrated on offense tonight too. Frustrated as our fans are, and I am, the offense we had, think about theirs. I mean they had a lot of three and outs as well. So it was one of those defensive struggle games, field position games.

Q. (No microphone. On the play of Jake Fromm)
KIRBY SMART: I thought Fromm played with good poise. I never felt like it got too big for him. Even after the fumble -- and I was frustrated, wasn't frustrated with the fumble, I was frustrated he didn't fall on the ball. You're going to have fumbles, but just get on the ball and get another opportunity. Then the decision on the comeback route to Isaac there, he knows better than that. But luckily that one didn't cost us. He got away with one there. And he's a competitor. I'm proud of the kid. I think this will be a great learning experience for him. You got to figure he's going to grow a lot from playing in this kind of atmosphere and environment. The guy, I mean he made some throws he's not going to get credit for too that the guy dropped. I talked early in the year that our wideouts and got to make plays. We had an opportunity to make two touchdowns, we ended up getting one of them, on the one handed catch, but the other one with Mecole.

Q. (No microphone. On the fan base)
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I'm always proud of the way they competed. I'm proud of our fans. Proud of the fact that they came out. The video shots I saw from Chicago before the game and take-over when we got here, that played a role in this game. So we never felt like it was so much of a road game. I mean, there was times our quarterback was able to go for his own cadence, which you don't usually get to do on the road. You don't get to do it on the road in the SEC, the fan base don't let you do that. We were able to go with ours and I thought a lot of it had to do with the red and black.

Q. (Question about Rodrigo and scholarship.)
KIRBY SMART: Rodrigo won the job. He did a great job. He won it, we told him on Friday. We told him he was getting a scholarship so he could go relax and go play. Rodrigo's earned that the. He's a great kid.

Q. (No microphone. On the play of Lorenzo Carter.)
KIRBY SMART: Lorenzo? I don't remember that one so I can't really -- he had a hell of a game. But did we recover that one? He almost picked it up and ran with it, didn't he. I thought Lorenzo played great. He's not playing his natural position, Lorenzo has stepped up and allowed us to play with only four DB's and that's been a major concern of ours. Now AD went in the game and he helped us, he was able to play and that's, that changes our defense so much. It allows us to be fresh on special teams. But Lorenzo has been, his value is he can play in space. He gives you offense, because they got to account for that guy rushing and they got to account for the guy dropping. And I thought he did a tremendous job. He plays on two special teams, he plays every down on defense, and it's really kind of amazing that he doesn't get tired.

Q. How good was it to have both of those guys make the decision to come back?
KIRBY SMART: I thought both of them were more of a factor in this game than they were last year. I thought that they had impact on the game. The other guy that makes plays is D'Andre Walker. He makes a lot of tackles for a loss and wish he wouldn't grab, but I guess everybody on the team decided to do that once. It's frustrating. But those outside backers work hard, they're good athletes and that's the kind of guys you got to play with in college football now, because these teams are built around these quarterbacks, so you have to have somebody who can get them on the ground.

Q. You had a lot of second and longs for them, can you talk about how critical that was most of the night?
KIRBY SMART: I think both offenses had a lot of second and longs it seemed like. I mean, you stop teams on first and ten it gives you a chance to win, because it will bring up third and long. I think both teams lack of success on first and ten impacted these third down numbers, which are staggering. 3-17 and 4-17 for two teams. That's like Alabama/LSU or something like that. Nobody could get a first down. That's the way the game's played.

Q. How does this win help the program?
KIRBY SMART: I definitely think that for our fan base it seems that way. For our team, it's the next game. Yeah, it's Notre Dame, they're a great program, we got a lot of respect for them and they have a great football team. They're better than they were last year. And we're better than we were last year. So both teams are better. I can promise you that. Because I watched a lot of their tape in the off-season. But program builder? I don't know if you have that. I think the biggest thing is focusing on next week, can we get better. That's the thing that happens, our kids came in the locker room and said, hey, we didn't play real good. Sometimes when you don't play good and you win, you don't learn a lesson, all right. So we're going to learn a lesson from this. Because we got to play better in the future to go where we want to go. And we got the people to do it, we just got to execute better.

Q. Did you see anything, did you see Donald's comments at the start of the week that we was kind of pretty confident about playing defense against them?
KIRBY SMART: I think Donald will be the first to tell you that he really kind of misspoke, he didn't handle that the right way. That's not what we do. We don't talk about teams in the media. We don't do that. We don't give ammunition to them. I told Brian Kelly that. It's not indicative of us or our program. He knows how we do things. I told him he shouldn't have said all that the. Those kids played hard. That's not who we are. That's not what we are.

Q. Talk about the offensive line.
KIRBY SMART: I'll have to watch the tape and see. I thought Skole came in there and gave us some movement. I thought they moved some up front and gave us some problems. They fired some corners. At times we're like gold. We get hot running the ball, we look like gangbusters. And at times we can't do anything. So we got to improve in that area and we got to have a quarterback that will throw it to make people respect it.

Q. (No microphone. On the play of the defense)
KIRBY SMART: I thought it was great. We work hard on that. I didn't feel like they were getting in the red zone, I thought it was outside the 20 most of the time, but it was kind of the same thing. Holding them to field goals was the difference in the game, it gave us a chance to win with a field goal. But we work hard on that area, we got to continue to improve on it and I thought the kids just fought hard. Even when they scored the touchdown, I mean, our guys were saying, they're not in until they're in and we're going to make them earn it.

Q. (No microphone.)
KIRBY SMART: I think it shows progress in the right direction, but we got to really get rid of penalties. It's frustrating to have kickoff returns and holding. And it was a high penalty game, really both teams, but especially ours. Some of them I call them unforced penalties, they're all discipline. Hands to the face sometimes is not disciplined. Face mask, you're not disciplined at all. I don't know if it's a trend. But they had that called four times in their game last week. So maybe the facemasks got magnets, I don't know, but we keep grabbing them.

Q. On the play of the defensive backs. 
KIRBY SMART: The two or three picks, I thought Baker had -- the quarterback made a bone head play and threw an out route into a trap corner, which you should never do. JR had kind of the one that pinged around. I tell you what, they got some wideouts that can play. I thought that our corners really held up well. I thought that was the key to the game. I thought that if we could not give up the big play, we would be able to stop the run. And they took some shots early and they hit us on the over route, they did a good job scheme-wise, they hit us. But the kids never, they never kind of faded they just kept playing.

Q. Is (De’Andre) Walker healthy?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, rest? Yeah, they are, but nobody goes in for Lorenzo. Lorenzo plays a different position, so what happens is Walter and D'Andre and Dap, he doesn't get, he doesn't get that many subs, because we just don't have another guy quite like him. And it's really AD's position. We talk about it, we got to make changes and adjustments and I've never had to play defense this way, I've always had five defensive backs. We're playing against teams that we should be nickel in with four defensive backs, so give Coach Tucker and the defensive staff a lot of credit they improvised and got the best players on the field which is the coach's job.

Q. What was your vintage point on Terry Godwin’s touchdown catch? 
KIRBY SMART: First thing that went through my mind was AJ Greene. His was probably a little tougher, the one he made one handed in the air, but I actually thought about that and we had a talk today, actually talked about big games, on the road, non-conference and he talked about that catch. And Terry catching that ball is pretty amazing. But it should have never been. We should have caught the other ball. So that's the thing we got to work on.

CLOSING REMARKS: Ill leave you with this tonight. The atmosphere was incredible. You think about our players and our fan base, this will be a game we talk about for a long time, a special trip, for our players to end it the right way and for our fan base to come out, I want to say thanks to the fans, because they were really behind us and backed us and I thought it was a big momentum swing in the game. Thanks.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart watches from the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)
Photo: Joshua L. Jones/AP

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.