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Week 1 Game Review: Clemson @ Georgia

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A tale of two halves. The Tigers did their best impersonation of a playoff contender in the first, heading into the half all knotted up with the Dawgs. After the break, though, it became evident that the Tigers were just pretenders as Georgia broke the game wide open with it's deep stable of bruising running backs.

Scott Cunningham

 

1st 2nd 3rd 4th Total
(12) Georgia 14 7 3 21 45
(16) Clemson 7 14 0 0 21


Welcome to the Todd Gurley show. I'd like to say Georgia collectively kicked our tails Saturday night, but the truth is it was all Gurley. He had something to prove to the critics who called him soft last year and went off on us for 293 all purpose yards and 4 touchdowns. We played well enough to hang around in the first half. Our first drive was clearly scripted and worked like a charm giving us the early lead. The offensive line played better than expected and Mark Richt seemed confused by the depth in his own backfield. We should have had the lead going into halftime due to a missed chip shot field goal, but I'm not sure it would have mattered.

Pruitt made the adjustments that mattered and just like the Florida State game last year, he schooled Chad Morris in the chess match that is college football. This had a snowball effect on the rest of the team. I'm not sure what Chad Morris's offensive gameplan was in the second half. If Georgia has any weakness on defense, it's their secondary. We just refused to attack it. We seemed content to just keep running the ball right into their blitzes. I understand the offensive line limits what Morris can do, but I don't see why you can't even attempt a deep ball when nothing else is working. Chad Morris apparently thought we had Gurley, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel and not Howard, Davidson and...whatever else we have.

After playing physical in the first half, the offensive line played poorly in the second half. It's clear to me that Joe Gore has not come along as the staff has implied and still has a long way to go. They couldn't open holes for the running backs and couldn't keep the heat off Cole. Deshaun Watson didn't get enough looks in my opinion. In the first half he looked like a guy that can make things happen with his arm and his legs, leading us to a touchdown drive when we needed one badly. His passes were on the money, even the deep balls. They put him in for two series in the third quarter and he didn't produce a touchdown so they benched him for the rest of the game. I don't get that.

Nothing against Cole Stoudt, but we needed a spark on offense. Maybe give that Georgia defense a different look apart from Cole throwing screens and running the ball right at them with our sub par running backs. D.J. Howard is clearly not the best running back on the team. He had an abysmal 2.5 yards per carry. C.J. Davidson looked much better. Howard had far too many touches in the game. I think more of those should have gone to Gallman or Choice. Maybe they could have provided a spark as well.

The defense played about as well as can be expected. They gave up 38 points which is not great, but against an elite offense like Georgia, I would expect most good defenses to give up anywhere from 21-28 points. When your offense is producing three and out after three and out, your defense wears down. It was clear to anyone watching that our guys were getting gassed. I can't put this loss entirely on the defense.

We did have issues there though. Vic Beasley was a non-factor and we missed a guy like Corey Crawford. They repeatedly attacked us on that side and when Tavaris Barnes went down, we were toast. All they had to do was keep running the ball with any one of their three All-SEC caliber running backs. Because of their depth in the backfield, they had fresh legs against us all night long. At linebacker, I think Tony Steward has all the talent but none of the football IQ of Spencer Shuey. Stephone Anthony is going to need help out there.

The secondary is also clearly a weakness. We knew they were young but talented. Well the young portion showed when we gifted them back to back pass interference calls due to our guys losing the ball in the air. Equal blame can be dished out to Martin Jenkins and Jadar Johnson. Jayron Kearse once again gives up a big play in the second half by taking a terrible angle on a 51 yard TD run by Todd Gurley.

Our special teams is a putrid pile of hot garbage. Losing Catanzaro will prove to be as big of a loss as losing Sammy Watkins in my opinion. Ammon Lakip missed a very makeable 34 yard field goal before the half that would have given us the lead going into the half. It wasn't even close either. Catman would have made that one in his sleep. We gave them great field position for most of the game. We even gave up a big return for a TD before the half which was a key momentum swing in the game. Although you already had the feeling Georgia was going to break out at any moment and we were just hanging around. Conversely, we had terrible field position. Our average starting point was around our own 19 yard line. We are still looking for a semblance of a return game as T.J. Green is serviceable at best. Dabo must really like Danny Pearman because I don't see how else this guy has kept his job. All night long special teams put the offense in bad positions and the offense did likewise for the defense.

In the end, Georgia didn't do anything special, they just played to their strength of running the ball. They have the best group of running backs in the country and when your offense can't keep your defense off the field, that is a recipe for disaster. Our front 7 was highly touted coming into this game, but what can they do when our offense could only manage 15 yards of total offense in the entire second half? As I expected, our personnel losses on offense would hurt us in this game. You don't lose what we lost and come out unscathed. I put this loss squarely on the offense. Chad Morris loses his mental faculties whenever his "Plan A" doesn't work. He becomes very unimaginative and stubbornly sticks with a gameplan that isn't working. He almost never attempts to make any adjustments.

Some people called us a darkhorse playoff contender. Pete Roussel at 247Sports even picked us to play in the National Championship. These people probably assumed we were at the point as a program where we could just reload like Alabama. The "We Too Deep" slogan needs to be retired though because this is clearly not the case. Our offense is a work in progress. I think we will see talent prevail over experience and Watson will be our starter at some point in the near future. Right now the staff is still protecting Cole and pretending that he's going to start all year but at some point they will have to make the switch. It could be the difference between an 8-4 or a 10-2 record.

I can take a loss as long as it's competitive. I am getting kind of tired of these embarrassing blowouts on the national stage though. Some of the most WTF moments have come out of the Dabo Swinney era, starting with the Orange Bowl against West Virginia all the way up through last years brutal game against Florida State in Death Valley. It really amazes me how this team can look so totally unprepared at times and it makes me wonder what they are doing in these practices that they won't let anybody watch. There is no excuse for this kind of crap, especially when Dabo Swinney himself is the one that set the bar so high. Let's not let him forget that he himself proclaimed us national contenders after we beat LSU in 2012. We didn't look like contenders of any kind tonight. There are virtually no positives to take out of this game aside from the fact that no one in the national media will be talking about us anymore and we won't be walking around with big heads all year.