Instant Analysis: Clemson 38, Georgia 35
Clemson became the first non-SEC team to win two straight games against top-10-ranked SEC teams. Read more from the CFN writers and analysts as they dissect the Tigers' big triumph.
By Russ Mitchell
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Sigh. Aaron Murray is still good for two turnovers in every big game.
We had hoped Murray would pick up where he left of the 2012 season, finishing with two stellar games against Alabama and Nebraska. However, on the road, before a raucous Clemson crowd, Murray slipped back into a nasty habit that has dogged him throughout his career at Georgia.
Up 21-14 in the second quarter, Murray's fumble gave Clemson the ball at the Bulldogs' 16. Five plays later, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd tied it up. For those that argue this fumble was the result of poor pass blocking, you're wrong. Once again, under pressure Murray dropped his hands away from his body, exposing the football.
The interception came roughly three minutes later. Clemson's Sammy Watkins fumbled a punt deep in his own territory. On the very next play, Murray threw the ball to Clemson defensive end Corey Crawford on the 18 yard line.
That swing inside the span of five minutes cost Georgia between 7 to 14 points.
Conversely, Georgia's secondary issues were evident throughout the game, and were manifested in Boyd's 270 yard, three touchdown, no interception night.
But this game was ultimately lost when star Georgia tailback Todd Gurley was forced to spend time sidelined nursing a first quarter quadriceps injury. Gurley had 154 yards on just 12 carries, while his backup, Keith Marshall, finished with 43 yards on 16 carries.
For the mathematically challenged, that's 2.7 yards per carry for Marshall, and 12.8 ypc for Gurley. A swing of 10 ypc.
Of course, perhaps head coach Mark Richt thought it more important to keep Gurley healthy for next week's conference game against South Carolina. Indeed, UGA can still make it to Pasadena by sweeping the SEC, combined with a Clemson loss.
For while losing to Clemson hurts your pride, losing to Carolina hurts your season.
E-mail Rich Cirminiello
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Go ahead and give the game ball to Tajh Boyd, the undisputed Clemson leader, but save some important game item for defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Without his in-game adjustments, the Tigers don't beat Georgia tonight.
When the Bulldogs went up 21-14 early in the second quarter, it looked as if they were going to run the Tigers right out of Death Valley. But then Venables starting making in-game subluxations with all of the dexterity of a skilled chiropractor. Georgia was shutout over the next 20 minutes, struggling to handle Clemson's speed, blitzes and different looks in the front seven. It was during the Dawgs' stretch of futility that the Tigers were able to shift the momentum of a game it would eventually win by three points.
Georgia racked up a lot of yards on Saturday night, but there were really two games played, pre-defensive adjustments and post-defensive adjustments. Clemson caught its breath in the second quarter, aided in large part by its tacticians, namely Venables. The Tiger D still has plenty of work to do, particularly in the secondary, but it did a lot of growing up tonight against one of the country's top offenses.
Huge victory for the ACC. An even bigger win for Clemson. Now the Tigers must show they can handle prosperity and the scrutiny of being a top 5 team, something that's vexed this program at times in the recent past.
By Matt Zemek
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Clemson's last game, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against LSU, was dominated more by defense than offense. In that game, coach Dabo Swinney's team was contained for most of the evening and had to scramble in the final minutes – stopping LSU on a second and two – to prevail. Eight months later, Clemson played a game that was more defined by offensive prowess than defensive muscle. This time, Clemson took hold of a late lead and protected it. There are some obvious differences between the win over LSU and this win over Georgia for Clemson.
However, there's one key similarity between the two games, one fact that knits the two events together: They were both wins over top-10 SEC teams. You might have heard that no other non-SEC team had ever been able to pull off such a feat. Clemson – not in 1981 under Danny Ford, but in 2013 under Dabo, has done it.
Sure, Clemson needed some breaks to win this game, much as it needed former LSU offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa to call two passes late in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Clemson needed Georgia – in full rhythm on offense at the time – to get a first and goal at the Clemson 5, only to then get nothing due to a bad snap on a chip-shot field goal attempt. However, luck is a part of college football. Alabama needed Ohio State to be ineligible for the postseason… and Oregon and Kansas State to lose on the same November night… to win the 2012 title. Few teams ever win national titles without at least some fortune at the right time.
By Phil Harrison
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Great win by Clemson tonight, but let's pump the brakes a bit before anointing the Tigers with national-title oil. Yes Tajh Boyd was fantastic, and yes the offense was crisp, had great tempo, and showed plenty of big-play ability and creativity, but there is an infection spreading undetected.
For all of the excitement on offense in Death Valley tonight, the other side of the ball responsible for stopping teams from running up and down the gridiron failed to do so. In fact, If you would have told Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney that his defense would give up 545 yards of offense to the Bulldogs before the game, he'd likely be looking for a way to send a message in the next day's practice before stepping on the field.
There is absolutely no way that Clemson wins a national championship, yet alone an ACC championship with the type of defensive effort that it rolled out tonight. Ask the 2013 version of West Virginia, or the Oklahoma States and Oregons of the world that have put up Star Wars stats over the last few seasons only to be sitting at home watching defensive strong SEC teams win national-title after national-title.
So enjoy the victory tonight. It was a big one, and one that will likely get the Tigers on the map for all the marbles. But at some point, somewhere, somehow, the defense is going to have to step up and win a game or two against teams that find a way to catch the Tiger offense by the tail.
E-mail Bart Doan
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Clemson-Georgia came into this opening Saturday of college football as thee summer blockbuster, of which so few wind up with their behinds cashing the check their hype writes. This one did.
Both Boyd and his counterpart, Georgia's Aaron Murray played elite, exchanging blows all game until the clock finally ran out. But it was Boyd's wheels, and his ability to create outside the pocket that decided it. It won't be the biggest play of the game, but with over four minutes left in the game, clinging to a 10-point affair that would be in peril had they punted it back and gone into standard prevent defense (which they did instead with two-minutes left). Boyd rolled out on a third and four. No one was open. He looked to the right sidelines, and slipped a tackle like he bathed in mineral spirits, as he had all night. Game, set, match.
And so Clemson, sieve-like last year, 109th in the nation in giving up plays of 20-plus yards, and Georgia, 3rd in the nation in gaining them, dazzled in a hard-fought, hard-hitting, skillful football game complete with all the emotion of a playoff game … which is what college football is every Saturday, lest you forget.
Dabo Swinney said it all at midfield after the cock and crowed on the game. "Nothing is unthinkable if you're willing to think it" or something close to that, he bellowed. Time to start "thinking" of Clemson as a national title contender. The sky is the limit.
By Terry Johnson
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Despite Dabo Swinney's statement that the season opener with Georgia wasn't a "one-all, end-all deal", this win means a lot more for Clemson than people realize. Not only does it give the Tigers a second straight win over a Top 10 team, it puts them in position to play for a crystal football this season.
Make no mistake about it: the road to the national championship still runs through the SEC. However, Clemson's defense proved that it has what it takes to get the job done on college football's biggest stage. Sure, the it struggled on the first three drives, but the Tiger D picked things up after that, forcing the vaunted UGA offense off of the field in four plays or fewer in each of the next six drives. The pass rush was particularly impressive, producing four sacks, and forcing a normally steady Aaron Murray into two turnovers.
Not a bad performance against a Bulldog offense that returned ten starters from a unit that gave Alabama all that it could handle in the SEC Championship Game.
If the defense can continue to perform like it did over the final three quarters, there's nothing - except for a road trip to Columbia - that can stop the Tigers from running the table.