SOUTH BEND — As Saturday night turned into Sunday morning following Georgia's 20-19 victory over Notre Dame, Fighting Irish offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey took the blame.
"It's awful, absolutely awful ... it came down to execution at the end and I blew it," said McGlinchey, a 6-foot-8 1/4, 315-pound left tackle who turned down the NFL to try to help Notre Dame rebound from a 4-8 season.
McGlinchey held himself responsible for missing the block that led to Georgia linebacker Davin Bellamy's sack of quarterback Brandon Wimbush and linebacker Lorenzo Carter's fumble recovery that ended Notre Dame's chance of rallying past the No. 13 Bulldogs. The loss dropped the Irish (1-1) out of the Associated Press Top 25 rankings. Notre Dame is at Boston College next week.
"Our defense played its heart out. Everyone had their doubts about them and they stepped up," McGlinchey said. "That last play was my fault. We played our hearts out in the fourth quarter."
Coach Brian Kelly, who was brusque in ending his postgame conference, insisting things won't "snowball" as they did in 2016 when Notre Dame lost seven of its eight games by eight points or fewer, was in a better mood Sunday and didn't fault McGlinchey.
"I've never felt like there's one play that determines a game," Kelly said. "It was just a one-on-one scenario. That's a guy (Bellamy) that's going to be playing in the NFL."
After rushing for 422 yards and five touchdowns on 44 carries against Tempe in the opener, Notre Dame had 55 yards on 37 carries and one touchdown, a 1-yard run by redshirt junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who managed 1 net yard rushing on 16 attempts but completed 20 of 40 passes for 210 yards.
"It's a combination of everybody doing their job," Kelly said, "and, again, we've got to get better at it. We've got to coach it better, and we've got to play better, and we will next week."
Defensively, new coordinator Mike Elko's 4-2-5 scheme allowed Georgia 185 yards (73 on 13 carries by senior Sony Michel) but surrendered runs of 30 (senior Nick Chubb) and 40 yards (freshman D'Andre Swift). Notre Dame limited true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, who was making his first start, to 141 yards on 16-of-29 passing with two sacks and an interception.
"We're headed in the right direction," said Notre Dame senior linebacker Greer Martini, who had six stops. "Last year in the fourth quarter we would have fallen apart. We came out and got the ball back for the offense."