Yes, I realize many of you have moved on and would just like to forget what happened at Clemson. If so, feel free to read no further.
But this year I plan to dedicate myself to re-watching games on TV and passing along analysis and observation that I see the second time around. It's better to watch a game from the press box, but between writing your story, tweeting and blogging, you do miss a lot, so it's always useful to give it another look.
So here's what stood out to me:
- When Malcolm Mitchell tore his ACL, there was no sign of anything being wrong. He never hit the ground after chest-bumping Gurley. It looked like any other play. He walked off the field. It’s just amazing.
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- The first Murray sack, Kenarious Gates was just plain beat badly. Good luck against Jadeveon Clowney.
- Kolton Houston got beat twice for sacks, one at right tackle and one at left tackle. Frankly, you have to question why he was out there. He had not played one snap of college football yet, and had not played a real game of football since 2009. A game like that, on the road at a top-10 team, was not the time to give him his first exposure to football.
- Georgia's passing offense did so much better when rolling out. So why not do that every time? Well you can't, because the defense will figure it out and adjust, to even more disastrous consequences. But you could argue that Georgia should have sprinkled it in a bit more.
- Still, on second viewing I don't really have much of a problem with Georgia's play-calling, other than the sequence before the botched field goal. There were some very good plays called back by penalties or ruined by bad blocking. Gurley ran inside the Clemson 40 with 6:20 left, only to have another holding call on Andrews result in a second-and-15. By and large, Mike Bobo was putting his players in position to make plays and move the ball. Gurley did everything in his power, Murray and his receivers did too for the most part. That leaves ... well, you know.
- Quayvon Hicks’ performance looks even better on second viewing. He's a man, and he's going to have a lot more games like Saturday.
- Ditto for Justin Scott-Wesley. This really will be a breakout year for him, because of Mitchell’s injury. He just has to avoid critical chop-block penalties.
- Murray needs to scramble more. Maybe that will stretch the defense a bit more and mitigate the struggles of the O-line. Then defenses will spy a bit more towards the line, opening up room downfield for the receivers.
- I’ve addressed the pass protection problems. But the offensive line may have done a worse job in run-blocking up the middle. There was hardly anything there for Marshall and Gurley, who deserve credit for getting what they did. That allowed Clemson defensive coordinator Brett Venables to push coverage to the outside on run plays.
- More on the run blocking. Everyone goes back to the inability to punch it in before the botched field goal. But earlier in that half, before the successful fake punt run by Barber, the offense couldn't move the chains on second-and-short and third-and-short. Georgia scored eventually on that drive on a 12-yard Gurley run, but that was almost all Gurley, with an assist from Hicks. There was no hole where the play was intended, so Gurley just bounced off and went right and in the end zone. That made it 28-28.
- On that note, I don't know where this offense would be without Gurley. I mean, wow.
- The pass rush was much better in the first half, with Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd coming close to a couple sacks. But as the running game got going for Clemson, there were less and less pressure situations for Boyd.
- Tray Matthews was a lot better against the run than the pass.
- Amarlo Herrera’s near-interception could not have been a pick-six because he was headed to the ground. But it would have been a sudden change and short field for the offense, with the potential to make it 28-14. Instead Clemson punted, Georgia took over deep in its territory, and three plays later Murray was sacked and fumbled. (It was Kolton Houston who was beat that time, with a blitzing linebacker joining in and nobody picking him up.)
- Georgia to start the second half: A delay of game was silly, but then a holding call on David Andrews negated what would have been a first-down completion to Michael Bennett. The holding came a result of pressure on Murray, who was wrapped up before dumping to Bennett. Two plays later Gates and Houston were both beaten, with Gates ultimately giving up a sack.
- Tajh Boyd is really good, and that shouldn't be forgotten when evaluating this defense. His touchdown pass on a wheel route down the right sideline was brilliantly placed. And on the next drive, when Clemson took a 31-28 lead, Boyd evaded a near-sack and completed a first-down pass. Boyd did that several times, actually.
- Also overlooked is some plain bad luck for Georgia: Late in the third quarter, Chris Conley might have gotten in the end zone if he hadn't been horse-collared. The replays showed Conley probably could have escaped a legal tackle and while he had one more man to beat, Conley also had a clear path to the right pylon. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time because the penalty (half the distance) took it to the 6. But then of course the Bulldogs couldn't punch it in and muffed the field goal snap. If Conley ends up scoring, Georgia leads 35-31, and who knows what happens.
- We can talk about turnovers, but all of those happened in the first half, which finished tied. It was the penalties in the second half, especially the fourth quarter. Even for all the legitimate talk about the botched field goal, one drive later Georgia had the ball in Clemson territory still only trailing by 3 - and a chop-block penalty on Scott-Wesley backed Georgia up 15 yards on first down.
- Roderick McDowell and Clemson's offensive line had plenty of energy in the fourth quarter. Georgia's defense seemed winded, especially in the back seven - where they substitued a lot less than the front four. Just sayin'.
- Brent Musberger really missed on some names. At one point he referred to Michael Bennett (jersey number 82, and white) as Jay Rome (number 87, and black.) But I still love Brent.
Closing thoughts: The performance of the defense improved in my eyes on this second viewing. The final numbers aren't pretty, but against a very good offense it did about as expected. I also changed my mind in thinking the offense would have put up about 10-14 more points if Mitchell had stayed healthy. Frankly with the way the line played it wasn't likely.
Final thought: Ultimately, these were two evenly-matched teams. But when you figure in turnovers, penalties and overall consistency, Georgia just didn't deserve to win this game.