In last night’s six-point loss to #3 Georgia, the home crowd played a role in Notre Dame’s ultimate demise. The largest crowd ever to watch a football game in the state of Georgia created a real home-field advantage for the Bulldogs because unlike Notre Dame fans two years ago, they didn’t sell-out their team for a few bucks and barely let in any visiting fans by hoarding their tickets. Just like an elite team’s fanbase should.
From the first play of the game last night, the home crowd had Notre Dame rattled. For all the talk all week long about practicing with noise and adjusting to a silent count and all of that, Notre Dame still jumped offsides repeatedly last night. The Georgia crowd was loud from start to finish.
Of the 93,246 fans packed into Sanford Stadium, a small percentage of them were cheering for the visitors. It was a stark contrast to the crowd in Notre Dame Stadium two years ago for Georgia’s first-ever trip to South Bend. That September night, Georgia fans invaded Notre Dame Stadium and might have accounted for half of the 80,000+ in attendance.
As a Notre Dame fan in the stands that night, it was sickening to see another team’s fanbase pretty much take over Notre Dame Stadium. And remember, that game just the second game ever played in Notre Dame Stadium following the completion of the massive Campus Crossroads project. All that money, all that hype and the second game of the “new” stadium and another team’s fanbase made national news for taking over the stadium.
I saw a lot of self-righteous tweets from Notre Dame fans talking all high and mighty about how it never occurred to them to go the game in Athens as though going to an away game was beneath them. Well, sorry, but anyone trying to use that excuse if full of it. Notre Dame fans showed two years ago that even when there are big games in Notre Dame Stadium, there is something more important to them than wins and losses. Money.
That shouldn’t be too surprising either. Money is essentially the same reason there isn’t a home-field advantage inside Notre Dame Stadium even when another team doesn’t overtake the stadium. Do you think there were a lot of fans being yelled at last night in Sanford Stadium to sit down? Probably not.
That kind of home-field advantage doesn’t exist inside Notre Dame Stadium mainly because the administration has not done much to cultivate one. Sure they have been doing the “Irish Wear Green” initiative the last two years, but until the “down in front crowd” is addressed, there will never be an environment inside the House that Rockne Built like the one we all witnessed last night. That is something that won’t be addressed because most of that crowd also donate a lot of money.
It was fun to imagine an environment like that inside Notre Dame Stadium watching the Georgia fans continually harass Notre Dame into false starts. That used to exist at Notre Dame in the late ’80s when the crowd was famously flagged for a delay of game penalty for being too loud when the stadium held 20,000 fewer seats. Nowadays, you’re lucky if you don’t get told to sit down if you’re standing on anything other than the most critical third or fourth down of the game.
It was also extremely impressive to see how few Georgia fans sold their tickets to Notre Dame fans considering how many Irish fans sold their tickets in 2017. Tickets to last night’s showdown weren’t exactly cheap either. It was one of the most expensive tickets in all of college football this year. The Georgia fans that sold their tickets apparently sold them mainly to Georgia fans. There was even some red inside the small section of the stadium that was reserved for Notre Dame.
In a game decided by six points, having a crowd like the one Notre Dame played in front of last night can create a clear advantage for the home team. It did last night. More than one drive was impacted by false start penalties that put the offense in negative down and distances.
Will Notre Dame ever be able to create that kind of home-field advantage? Tough to say. The last time Notre Dame Stadium was even close to that level was 14 years ago for that epic USC game. Since then there have been a few times the stadium was rocking a bit, but nothing like last night.
Hats off to Georgia and their fanbase for not only providing their team with a home-field advantage that made a difference but also in protecting their house and not letting the Irish fanbase, which does travel well, even put a dent into that home-field advantage. That’s twice now that Georgia has taught Notre Dame a lesson in home-field advantage.