Georgia Football’s 38-35 loss to Clemson on Saturday night gave the Bulldogs a clear look at what they need to work on as they prepare for South Carolina. Five elements in particular defined this game for the Bulldogs:
Running back Todd Gurley had the best game of his career against Clemson, but he gave the Bulldogs quite the scare within the opening minutes of Saturday’s game. On his first carry of the game, Gurley completed a 75-yard scoring run in the first quarter, giving Georgia its first touchdown of the game. The run led to a strained -quad muscle from which he quickly recovered.
Despite temporarily leaving the game, Gurley returned to help the Bulldogs total 545 yards on offense. Individually, he rushed for 154 yards and two TDs on 12 carries, averaging 12.8 yards per carry. In addition, he reached the 100-yard mark for the tenth time in his career at Georgia. All of Gurley’s success led to him being named the SEC offensive player of the week. With Georgia’s offense lacking in production at times during the opener, Gurley’s 75-yard scoring run stands out as the play of the game for the Bulldogs.
Heading into this season, the question of whether or not Mitchell, the Bulldogs’ top receiver, would remain healthy became a top story for Georgia. During his freshman year, an injury caused him to miss parts of four games, while another injury in Mitchell’s sophomore year forced him to miss the first game of the season.
Saturday night, he suffered a third injury while celebrating Gurley’s 75-yard TD run and remained off the field for the rest of the game. Mitchell ended up suffering a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season, leaving the Bulldogs without their top receiver. Last season, despite missing some games, Mitchell caught 40 passes for 572 yards and four TDs. In total, he has eight TDs and 1,237 yards in his career at Georgia.
Losing Mitchell this early in the season definitely has an effect on Georgia’s passing game, especially since the team faces South Carolina’s defense this Saturday.
Georgia’s defense definitely showed its inexperience against Clemson by missing many tackles and struggling to keep up with the Tigers’ up-tempo offense. Overall, the Bulldogs finished with only six tackles for loss and one sack.
Jordan Jenkins, who is expected to be key for Georgia’s defense, registered only one tackle for loss on Saturday night. Clemson established the run early on in the first quarter. The Bulldogs allowed for two impressive scoring plays from Clemson within the first quarter that gave the Tigers an early lead. The first score came from Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, which was then followed by receiver Sammy Watkins’ 77-yard TD run. By the second half, the Bulldogs’ defense appeared worn out.
Georgia has a talented defense but just did not have the ability to stop one of the top offenses in the country. The group will need more time to find a balance and develop into its full potential.
The Bulldogs’ offensive line will definitely be looked at for the next few weeks, considering the group was not very effective on pass protection. Kolton Houston, who played both right and left tackle in his first college game, and Kenarious Gates were both beaten for sacks. In total, Georgia QB Aaron Murray was sacked a total of four times. Houston’s problem most likely came from his inexperience in an actual college-game setting. The last time he played in a game at all was four years ago (before he came to Georgia). Protection was not the only issue; penalties also prevented the Bulldogs from gaining any real ground. Looking at the offensive line’s problems gives even more credit to Gurley, who managed to have the best game of his career under undesirable circumstances.
Murray had a fairly good game, even with the lack of protection from the offensive line. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 323 yards and moved the offense enough to keep the score close. A few mistakes, however, made the difference in which team came out on top. Murray fumbled and threw an interception in the second quarter—both of which cost the Bulldogs. The lack of protection limited the time Murray had to pass, leading to inaccuracy.
Georgia’s loss will not affect its chances of reaching the SEC Championship, but it should push the Bulldogs to fix the problems in order to get there.