After Georgia's win over Murray State in Week 2, head coach Kirby Smart said he wanted to see how his guys would perform against some stiffer competition. Two weeks later, Smart will get what he wanted.
The Georgia defensive front has put up an impressive stat line over the first three weeks of the 2019 season, albeit against less-than-stellar opposition. The Bulldogs’ 12 sacks are tied for ninth best in the nation. The outside linebackers have been especially active, with five different players credited for at least a half-sack through three games.
But with No. 7 Notre Dame coming to town, now’s the time for the group to find out what it's really made of, and it's excited for the opportunity.
“They have a great offensive line, but we’re just going to go out and try to dominate every down,” redshirt freshman Azeez Ojulari said. “It’s going to be a challenge. We’re looking forward to it.”
Ojulari has been one of the best performers on the Georgia defense so far this season. He has the most tackles of any Bulldog outside linebacker with nine, in addition to his 1.5 sacks. Smart said on Tuesday that Ojulari has “really taken over” the outside linebackers’ room.
Smart will need his edge rushers can take over the game on Saturday, but they have a tall task ahead of them. At the helm for the Notre Dame offense is senior quarterback Ian Book, who led the Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season and a college football playoff berth in 2018.
“We just have to contain him,” Ojulari said. “We know he’s athletic so we’ll have to keep our rush lanes for sure. I think we can still be aggressive we just can’t run past the quarterback a lot. He can get out of the pocket.”
Book threw for a career-high five touchdowns against New Mexico and leads all Power Five quarterbacks with 19.07 yards per completion. But Notre Dame has allowed four sacks in its first two games, so it's possible that Ojulari and company will have some opportunities to make plays in the backfield.
If the defense finds a way to disrupt Book, it will have a sold-out Sanford Stadium crowd cheering them on. Ojulari said the defense is looking forward to the stadium rocking when the Fighting Irish have the ball, particularly when it's third down.
“We know it’s going to be loud,” Ojulari said. “We love that moment when you get the chance to rush. It’s what we do. You have to have a plan in mind and just get off the ball.”