Georgia RB Todd Gurley (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/ Getty Images)
Georgia Football faced a similar situation to the one LSU did in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last season. Both teams were defeated by Clemson, making it the second SEC team in a row that the Tigers have defeated. The No. 5 Bulldogs fell 38-35 to No.8 Clemson in Saturday’s season-opener in Clemson, SC. The Tigers up-tempo offense proved to play a major part in its first win of the season, as QB Tajh Boyd and a talented group of receivers wore out the Bulldogs defense.
This season-opener started off with an impressive showing by Georgia’s young defense, with the Bulldogs forcing Clemson to go three-and-out immediately; true- freshmen Tray Matthews, Leonard Floyd, and Brendan Langley started for the Bulldogs. Georgia QB Aaron Murray had a rough start, with the Bulldogs’ offense being unproductive on its first possession as well.
The offensive battle began soon after as Clemson established the run early, with QB Tajh Boyd scoring on a 4-yard touchdown run. Georgia followed with its biggest play of the first half: a 75-yard TD run from RB Todd Gurley, who looked to be beginning his campaign for the Heisman. He rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns, after temporarily leaving the game with a thigh injury. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins also looked to be a strong Heisman contender, completing a 77-yard TD run after Georgia’s first big play of the game. Georgia finished the first quarter with 218 total yards on offense, while Clemson finished with 179 yards.
Georgia and Clemson entered the second quarter tied 21-21, before the Bulldogs finished a 97-yard drive with a TD. The main issue for Clemson throughout the first quarter and the beginning of the second proved to be its defense which gave up three consecutive TDs to the Bulldogs.
Before long, turnovers, which were a minor issue for Georgia in its first preseason scrimmage, became an issue once again, as Clemson’s defense began putting pressure on Murray and the rest of the Bulldogs’ offense. Boyd scored his second rushing TD of the game after Murray fumbled, allowing Clemson to recover at Georgia’s 15-yard line. Despite the turnovers towards the end of the first half, Georgia’s offense proved to be the team’s biggest asset in the first half, as it allowed for the defense to rest-up after facing Clemson’s up-tempo offense, which it established early in the game.
Clemson continued its run with a TD to start off the second half, leading the Bulldogs 28-21. Georgia TE Arthur Lynch, who remained quiet for much of the beginning, got the first down for the Bulldogs on a fake punt, and Gurley proved his temporary leave early on was definitely a one-time only occurrence, as he later scored on the drive to tie the game. After a field goal by Clemson, Georgia attempted to tie the game once again, but a high snap before a Georgia field goal prevented that tie from happening.
As the second half continued, poor communication and a worn-out defense developed into issues for the Bulldogs. A Clemson-dominated stadium drowned out any talk among Georgia’s offense, while the Bulldogs’ defense began to tire- out against Clemson’s high-powered offense, including standout RB Roderick McDowell. McDowell rushed for 132 yards. Georgia needed to get the ball away from Tajh Boyd and his group of running backs and did so within the final minutes of the game to bring the score within three. Despite the attempt, the Bulldogs were unable to make an additional move in the final two minutes, as Clemson recovered the onside kick to end the game.
Gurley and Murray both had an impressive start to the season for the Bulldogs, along with Georgia wide receiver Michael Bennett, who made his first game- appearance since his injury last season.
Murray threw for 323 yards and one interception, while Clemson’s Boyd finished the game with 270 passing yards and three TDs.
Final score: Clemson 38 Georgia 35
Final notes for the Bulldogs
Murray’s issue on the Bulldogs’ first possession came from his inability to get rid of the ball quickly, which prevented him from being accurate in his passing.
Marshall Morgan was suspended for the first game of the season. Patrick Beless served as his replacement. With the absence of Morgan, Georgia’s kicking game was called into question, as the Bulldogs’ opted not to go for a field goal on their second possession.
Gurley and WR Malcolm Mitchell both faced injuries early on in the game. Gurley returned after leaving the field due to a thigh injury. Mitchell, however, did not make a return.