What an impressive start to the 2014 Georgia football season! As a UGA fan, I haven’t had that much fun watching a game since the Bulldogs destroyed Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl in 2008.
Georgia and Clemson were evenly matched in the first half and went to the break tied at 21, but the Dawgs asserted their will in the second half and wore down a Clemson defense that was expected to be rather stout.
We got a great look at the amount of talent in the offensive backfield in Athens this season and saw the incredible impact those running backs can have on a game.
Here are five other takeaways from the win.
I can’t remember the last time I saw UGA execute so well on special teams in a game. The kickoff and punt coverage was fantastic. The punting from Collin Barber and Adam Erickson enabled the Dawgs to control field position for the entire night. Marshall Morgan was his typical automatic self. And the kickoff return for a touchdown by Todd Gurley was a thing of beauty that was set up with a perfect wedge. I was hoping Georgia could break even on special teams, but they completely dominated this facet of the game.
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2. The running back depth is as good as advertised.
We knew Todd Gurley was one of the best running backs in college football. We hoped Keith Marshall could return to the great form he showed as a freshman. And we’d heard good things about the two new freshmen, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. Gurley showed why he’s a top candidate for the Heisman Trophy if he can stay healthy, and Michel and Chubb gave us a glimpse of a very promising future. The only one who didn’t have an impact on the game was Keith Marshall, which isn’t too surprising for a guy in his first game coming off ACL surgery.
In the first half, the Georgia defense gave up 21 points and 276 total yards. Clemson was having success on third-down and appeared to be finding holes in the UGA secondary, which were common problems last season. That completely changed in the second half. The Dawgs only allowed one first down in the final two quarters and they took control of the game with an impressive showing of the depth on both sides of the ball. The same could be side on offense, where Mike Bobo made a more concerted effort to give Todd Gurley the ball after he only had four carries in the first half. The Georgia coaching staff out-coached the opposition - something we haven’t seen very often in big games over the past few years.
4. Georgia won all three phases of the game.
One of the most frustrating things with Georgia football during the Aaron Murray era was that it seemed like the team could never put together a complete performance where they played well in all three phases of the game - offense, defense and special teams. That's not a knock against Murray. It just seemed like they were always having to make up for each other's mistakes.
We finally saw it against Clemson. The offense wore Clemson down and Hutson Mason did a great job of managing the game. The defense struggled in the early going but settled down and caused all kinds of problems for the Tigers in the second half. And as I mentioned in my first point, the special teams were exceptional.
5. The offense is still missing some big weapons.
As good as the UGA offense looked in the second half, it’s scary to think that it could get even better. The running backs are a known quantity and the offensive line looked strong against what was supposed to be a dominant Clemson front seven, but the Dawgs still have some major holes at wide receiver. Chris Conley isn’t 100-percent healthy, Isaiah McKenzie was playing his first college game, and two of the best deep threats in the SEC, Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley, missed the game because of injuries. Imagine how much dangerous the offense will become with the threat of guys like Mitchell and Scott-Wesley stretching the field. It’s not a pleasant thought for opposing defensive coordinators.
What were you most impressed with in the win over Clemson? Let me know in the comments section.