Rather than posting a drawn out diatribe filled with armchair hindsight, frustration, and silver linings, it is best to take a direct look at the negatives and positives coming out of last night’s loss to Clemson.
UGA’s Inability to Protect Aaron Murray
For a Georgia offensive line that came into the first game as a veteran group, the Dawgs struggled to keep quarterback Aaron Murray upright. Murray was sacked four times, a number that easily could have gone up had he not used his mobility to extend plays. The poor blocking had a direct impact on UGA’s struggle to convert on third down. The Bulldogs only converted four out of 14 third downs last night.
The Georgia Defense Missed Critical Tackles
Following a flawlessly executed 75 yard touchdown run by Todd Gurley, the Bulldogs seemed ready to take back momentum from the Tigers. With the game tied at seven, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd hit wide receiver Sammy Watkins on a pass over the middle. Damian Swann’s laughable effort to tackle Watkins failed, and Clemson found themselves up 14-7 in a matter of seconds. In the third quarter, safety Tray Matthews failed to make the tackle on a crucial fourth down and one play that would have swung the momentum back in favor of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia was penalized nine times for 84 yards. Infractions such as blocking below the waist, along with holding penalties, put Georgia behind the eight ball too often. Quarterback Aaron Murray had a few turnovers, but UGA likely would have been able to overcome them if they had not insisted on shooting themselves in the paw.
The Dawgs’ biggest mistake came in the third period when Georgia was unable to put the ball in the end zone after driving to first and goal at the Clemson five yard-line. At that point, UGA was down by three and they decided to kick a 21 yard field goal to tie the game. To the horror of Bulldog Nation, the kicker’s foot would never touch the football because the snap was too high to handle. Georgia trailed for the remainder of the game.
Todd Gurley was even better than advertised. He had an incredible showing and his struggle with an injury may have been the biggest turning point of the contest. Keith Marshall did all he could to carry the load during Gurley’s absence, but the offensive line was too inconsistent for Marshall to flourish.
Justin Scott-Wesley appears to be another viable weapon as a receiver in Georgia’s loaded offense. Michael Bennett made a couple of phenomenal catches in his return from a torn ACL. Quavyon Hicks was a spark plug at the fullback position. The Bulldog offense can never have too many options, and Hicks showed an ability to make big plays in important situations.
Georgia Gave a Valiant Effort, Clemson Deserved to Win
Georgia has nothing to be ashamed of, they fought to keep the game close and answered Clemson at almost every turn on the road. The Tigers were balanced, they (mostly) avoided catastrophic errors, and Tajh Boyd was absolutely masterful in the fourth quarter as Clemson put UGA away. The Tigers forced Georgia to play from behind for nearly the entire game, which proved to be too much for the young defense to handle.