Kevin McGuire

Contributor to NBCSports.com, Athlon Sports, The Comeback, and The Sports Daily. Host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast, Twitch streamer, trombone player and amateur runner. FWAA member and Philadelphia area native and resident.
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No. 3 Georgia holds off No. 7 Notre Dame for 23-17 win

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Before the largest crowd ever to watch a football game in Sanford Stadium, No. 3 Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC) took time wearing down No. 7 Notre Dame (2-1) for a 23-17 victory Saturday night. Despite a handful of injuries before and during the game, Georgia managed to overcome an early special teams mistake and shut down the Irish in the second half. Georgia outscored Notre Dame 13-0 after halftime.

Georgia running back D’Andre Swift led all players with 81 rushing yards and scored Georgia’s first touchdown in the second quarter to tie the game at 7-7. Jake Fromm gave Georgia a cushion in the fourth quarter with a 15-yard pass to Lawrence Cager. The touchdown lifted Georgia to a 20-10 lead at the end of an 82-yard drive after Notre Dame had gone three-and-out.

Notre Dame’s second-half drive summary was not good, to put it kindly. After halftime, Notre Dame fumbled on the third play of their first offensive series, which led to a Georgia field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship to tie the game at 10-10. The Irish then went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, leading to another field goal by Blankenship to give Georgia their first lead of the night late in the third quarter. Another punt after losing two yards in three plays led to the Georgia touchdown drive, and Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book was picked off by J.R. Reed on the following possession at the Georgia 33-yard line. That was Notre Dame’s last chance to make things interesting because the Bulldogs began to work the clock. Keeping things on the ground, for the most part, Georgia killed nearly four minutes off the clock before one more field goal by Blankenship to extend the lead to 23-10.

If the atmosphere was a factor, it showed. Notre Dame was called for seven false start penalties in the game. A record crowd at Sanford Stadium of 93,246 was crammed in to watch the events unfold in person. Most of them ended up going home with a smile on their face.

Georgia did suffer some notable injuries in the game. Starting offensive linemen Isaiah Wilson (didn’t play; ankle) and Solomon Kindley (left game; left leg injury) were among the injured Bulldogs, and cornerback Eric Stokes left the game after injuring his knee on the second play of the game.

This all sets Georgia up for a playoff run. With a win against a top 10 opponent under their belts and a favorable schedule the rest of the season, Georgia should be a near-lock for a spot in the SEC Championship Game with a possible 12-0 record. A road trip to Auburn late in the year could be the biggest hurdle remaining, and that could be a nice boost to a playoff profile if things fall just right for Kirby Smart and his program.

While it would be premature to suggest Notre Dame has been eliminated in the playoff discussion, it is a safe bet to say they have a much tougher path back into the playoff mix with a loss. With no conference championship game to fall back on and Michigan getting steamrolled earlier in the day to take some of the luster off their late October showdown in Ann Arbor (note: just some luster), Notre Dame is already in a likely position where they will need to take care of their own schedule the rest fo the way to go 11-1 and then hope for a little help from around the country. The good news for Notre Dame is they likely won’t fall back too far in the polls and there will be teams that take losses the next few months. But it will be tougher on the Irish now.

Georgia will get next week off before jumping into SEC play in October. The Bulldogs will play on the road against a Tennessee program that continues to struggle. The Vols were blown out on the road at Florida earlier in the day. For Georgia, all eyes may be looking ahead to November 2 when Georgia meets Florida in Jacksonville. That game is expected to decide the fate of the SEC East Division, but Georgia must get past Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky first. Those three teams are a combined 4-8.

there will be no bye week for Notre Dame until mid-October, so the Irish will be back at it next week with a home game against No. 21 Virginia. The Cavaliers avoided a home upset to Old Dominion on Saturday. Notre Dame will play their next three games at home with Bowling Green and USC each visiting after Virginia before Notre Dame reaches their next bye week.

No. 7 Notre Dame capitalizes on special teams mistake by No. 3 Georgia to lead at halftime

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No. 3 Georgia may have been a big favorite against No. 7 Notre Dame coming into Saturday night’s contest of unbeaten teams, but it is the Fighting Irish who reach halftime with the lead. Notre Dame leads Georgia 10-7 at halftime.

Defense has been the theme of the game so far, which makes a mistake on special teams by Georgia even more a factor. Georgia punt returner Tyler Simmons muffed a punt return deep in the Georgia end of the field in the second quarter. Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool came swooping in to recover the live ball and gave the Irish field position at the Georgia eight-yard line. But it would take a fourth-down pass from Ian Book to Cole Kmet to get on the board. Kmet didn’t appear to be the intended receiver, but Notre Dame was happy to take it.

Georgia would respond to tie the game before halftime. On the ensuing possession, the Bulldogs got their running game going against the Irish defense. D’Andre Swift finished off a 12-play drive with a short touchdown run that was upheld by a video replay. Notre Dame had a quick answer in their pockets before halftime though, as Book completed four straight passes to move from the Notre Dame 25-yard line down to the Georgia 12-yard line. The Irish settled for a field goal in the final seconds of the half to take the lead.

Georgia did lose one of their big offensive linemen in the first half. Left Guard Solomon Kindley was carted off the field as Georgia was finishing off their touchdown drive. Earlier in the game, Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes was helped off the field at the end of a play as well.

Will Notre Dame continue to hang with Georgia in the second half, or will the Bulldogs find a way to take the lead and pull away for a big win?

Pitt Special! Pitt stuns No. 15 UCF in thriller to snap UCF regular-season win streak

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After 27 consecutive wins in the regular season, the UCF Knights have taken a loss. No. 15 UCF (3-1) was upset on the road by Pitt (2-2, 0-1 ACC) on Saturday afternoon in Heinz Field, 35-34. Pitt blew a 21-0 lead before coming back to win the game with a trick play in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

With the game on the line in the final minute of the fourth quarter, Pitt rolled out a play reminiscent of the Philly Special (Pat Narduzzi attempted to rebrand the play as Pitt Special after the game) from Super Bowl 52. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett caught a pass from Aaron Matthews for a three-yard go-ahead touchdown.

Making the situation more imposing for UCF was the fact head coach Josh Heupel burned UCF’s final timeout on defense just before the touchdown was scored. That left UCF in a tough spot with under a minute to play. Starting at their 25-yard line with 56 seconds to play and no timeouts at their disposal, time ran out on the Knights as the Pitt defense was swarming. Gabriel was sacked twice in three plays to lock the gate son a win for the Panthers.

UCF fell behind with an uncharacteristically ugly start that saw them fall behind 21-0, and every aspect of the team was to blame. The offense was unable to get going. The defense could not make a big stop. And the special teams unit had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown by the Panthers. But UCF seized some control and got things back in their favor with a couple of scores before halftime, and a 21-7 burst out of halftime turned the tables in UCF’s favor.

Dillon Gabriel overcame his own rough start to the game to throw for 321 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdown passes came in the third quarter, the first to Gabriel Davis from the 10-yard line to bring UCF within four and the second to Davis for a 28-yard score to push UCF’s lead to 10.

But UCF couldn’t put the game away for good. UCF missed on a fourth-down conversion attempt in the fourth quarter and settled for a field goal at the end of a 10-play drive with 4:36 remaining in the game. Pitt then went on their game-winning drive over the course of 12 plays. The drive was extended by a UCF offside penalty on a 4th & 5 with 2:11 left to play. After getting the free first down, Pickett completed a 19-yard pass to Taysir Mack to get the ball down to the UCF 11-yard line. A few plays later set the stage for the memorable touchdown by the Panthers.

For the first time in three seasons, UCF must rebound from a regular-season loss. The good news is they get a good rebound opportunity next week at home against UConn. It will be all conference play the rest of the year for UCF, and their hopes of playing in the New Years Six ar not at all dashed base don this one loss. With over two months of football still to be played, UCF still is firmly in the mix for a third-straight NY6 appearance (although fans of Boise State are feeling good at this particular moment). But the talk about UCF in the College Football Playoff, for now, can be set aside.

As for Pitt, the Panthers play one more non-conference matchup next week against Delaware, a top 25 FCS program coming off a nailbiter against Penn earlier today. After a battle with the Blue Hens, Pitt will remain in ACC play for the rest of the season, beginning with a road trip to Duke. And against Duke, anything can happen if recent history is any indication.

Upset in the making? Pitt leads No. 15 UCF 21-10 at halftime

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After a big win against a power conference opponent last week, UCF is looking a little lost this afternoon against another power conference opponent. Pitt leads UCF 21-10 at halftime in Pittsburgh as the Knights have looked as lost on offense as they have in a few years.

It was Pitt’s defense that came out flying with energy to start the game. the Panthers drove UCF back eight yards on the game’s opening possession with terrific coverage on a pass in the backfield and a sack of UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel on third down. A.J. Davis capped a touchdown drive to get the Pitt offense going on the ensuing possession. Pitt extended their lead to 14-0 with a Kenny Pickett pass to Maurice Ffrench early in the second quarter.

UCF continued to look lost on offense, as Gabriel was picked off for the second time on the ensuing possession. UCF’s defense came up with a quick three-and-out but UCF’s offense was still stuck in the mud when they got the ball back. That eld to a special teams disaster when Pitt blocked a UCF punt and Wendell Davis picked up the ball and returned it for another Pitt touchdown.

UCF did eventually get on the board for a brief sigh of relief. After recovering a Pitt fumble by Davis at the Pitt 27-yard line, Knights running back Adrian Killins Jr. reached the endzone on an 11-yard run to cut into the Pitt lead.

UCF still has some work to do in the second half if they are to keep their undefeated streak in the regular season alive. But for now, Pitt holds the edge and is looking for a terrific rebound game after their loss last week.

Jonathan Taylor, No. 13 Wisconsin win in blowout vs. No. 11 Michigan

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In a Big Ten opener between two top 15 teams, there was no doubt which program is in a better position to compete for a Big Ten title this season. No. 13 Wisconsin (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) continued their dominant ways against No. 11 Michigan (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten) with a 35-14 victory in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon. The shutout streak to start the season by Wisconsin’s defense came to an end late in the third quarter, but the damage had already been done by star running back Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns despite missing the entire second quarter.

Taylor rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter before leaving for the remainder of the half with members of the team’s medical staff. Fortunately, by the time Taylor returned at the start of the second half, Wisconsin had a 28-0 lead and merely had to salt away the final 30 minutes of the game. Having Taylor returned helped that cause. As good of a game he had, there was much more to Wisconsin’s dominating performance. Jack Coan added a pair of rushing touchdowns and was efficient with his passing. The Badgers defense prevented the Wolverines from converting a third-down play (0-for-10). To add to that, Wisconsin’s offense was 3-for-3 on fourth down, including a big one to keep the game’s opening possession alive despite being in their side of the 50-yard line to start the game.

In need of an offensive spark, Michigan changed quarterbacks to begin the second half. After Shea Patterson went 5-of-14 for 87 yards in the first half (68 of which came on the first offensive play of the game for the Wolverines), Dylan McCaffrey took the reigns of the offense to start the second half. That spark never came. McCaffrey would not make it to the end of the third quarter after being removed from the game after taking a blow to the head at the end of a play. Patterson returned to the game to finish Michigan’s best drive of the day with a touchdown pass in the third quarter and he added another one later in the fourth quarter with the game all but officially decided.

For all the talk about Michigan’s offense being different this season, the first three games of the year show the Wolverines simply are nowhere close to being ready to live up to any of the hype.

 

Perhaps the only negative thing to come out of the game for Wisconsin was a pair of players being ejected form the defense. Safety Eric Burrell was ejected from the game in the second half for a targeting call. Just a few plays later in the third quarter, Reggie Pearson was ejected for an even nastier hit on McCaffrey. Both players will be required to miss the first half of the Northwestern game next week.

Michigan will lick their wounds and try to regroup next week at home against Rutgers.