Rewind: Return of the toss sweep kick-starts Georgia’s season

MONDAY REWIND

1. No. 12 Georgia’s 45-21 win over No. 16 Clemson was impressive. It’s being compared to the 2007 “Blackout Game” against Auburn and I think that’s a pretty good parallel. Remember, the Bulldogs actually trailed Auburn 20-17 in the third quarter of that game. Saturday’s contest was similarly close, tied 21-all well into the third quarter. But then Georgia got hot and put together a 24-0 finish to turn it into a rout.

I don’t think you have to go back as far in terms of an electric atmosphere in Sanford Stadium. Lest we forget, the house was rocking pretty good last September against LSU, when the No. 9 Bulldogs knocked off No. 6 LSU 44-41.

Now what to make of it?

2. Obviously Georgia established an identity against the Tigers. They look like they’re going to be a run-first team that’s going to get after the quarterback on defense and play strong special teams. Sounds like a winning formula.

Tailback Todd Gurley — who set a UGA record with 293 all-purpose yards — was named the Walter Camp national player week and likely will win the SEC’s offensive award on Monday. Together with freshman tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Georgia rushed for 338 yards in the game.

But the one player who probably didn’t get enough notice for that output on Saturday was Taylor Maxey. Maxey is a senior walkon from Statham and he started the game at fullback for the Bulldogs. This is particularly notable because Georgia lost its projected starter at that position — junior Merritt Hall — in the preseason due to chronic concussions.

Thanks to Maxey’s lead blocking and some second-half adjustments by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and running game coordinator Will Friend, Georgia went back to its tried-and-true toss sweep. With Maxey and center David Andrews, who started pulling out in front of the play, the Bulldogs were able to bowl over the Tigers’ ballyhooed defense.

3.  As always, it’s difficult put early victories and defeats into perspective. There’s just no way to be sure of how good or bad certain teams are at the point in the season. All we know for sure is Georgia is better — and specifically, deeper — than Clemson.

To that end, coach Mark Richt was heavily into temper mode on Sunday when he talked to reporters on his weekly teleconference call. He was saying things like, “I’m not going to get too excited” and “we’ve got a long way to go.”

“The old saying is true: You’re probably never as good as you think after a win and never as bad as you think after a loss,” Richt said.

The same thing goes for South Carolina in the wake of its 52-28 loss to Texas A&M. Is the Aggies’ offense that great, is the Gamecocks’ defense that bad or is it a little of both? The reality is, like usual, we’ll probably have to get a third of the way into the season to have a reasonably accurate assessment of what everybody has this year.

But of this you can be sure: If Georgia can’t follow up Saturday’s resounding victory over Clemson with a win over South Carolina at Williams-Brice, its good work this past Saturday will be all but forgotten.

4. But that’s not to dampen the enthusiasm being exuded by the Bulldog Nation. In fact, I think much of the optimism is warranted, particularly when you add the caveat that Georgia still has a lot of room for improvement. And the biggest jump in that regard usually occurs between Game 1 and 2.

I believe Georgia’s secondary can play a lot better and I think it will. There were a couple of curiosities from Saturday we still need to figure out. For instance, first-year defensive backs Shattle Fenteng and Malkom Parrish did not play in the game. This is counter to what we were seeing and hearing in preseason camp and we hope to find out whether it was for any reason other than “coach’s decision.”

Without those guys, the Bulldogs’ showed marked improvement in the second half. Of course, they were helped considerably by field position — Clemson’s average start in the second half was just inside the 17-yard line — and the play of Georgia’s front seven. But they really seemed to sharpen their focus and technique as the game went along looked particularly good when freshman Aaron Davis moved to boundary corner and sophomore Quincy Mauger stepped in for him at free safety.

Also, Georgia’s got to get its passing game going. Especially after the showing Saturday, teams are really going to start loading the box and the Bulldogs weren’t able to do much offensively when Clemson did that in the first half. Hutson Mason had 131 yards passing Saturday and, most notably, no turnovers. But Georgia has to find a way to get some deep-ball completions.

That should be helped with Justin Scott-Wesley’s expected return for the South Carolina game and certainly will be whenever Malcolm Mitchell gets back. This is just a guess but since Mitchell has yet to step on the practice field I’m not seeing that happening in time to play against the Gamecocks. Senior Jonathon Rumph also sat out against Clemson for some reason and he could help. Also, Georgia showed it has some plans for freshman flanker Isaiah McKenzie that could help loosen defenses.

5. In case you missed it, here’s A LINK to UGA’s video chronicling last Thursday’s celebration of the life of Dan Magill. It’s definitely worth a look.

Also, Georgia’s golf team registered a win in its first event of the season in the Carmel Cup at Pebble Beach Golf Links. The Bulldogs led wire-to-wire and finished at 17-under 1,063, including a final-round 7-under 353, for a five-stroke victory over second-place Vanderbilt.

In soccer, sophomore Gabby Seiler scored a golden goal in overtime to lift the Bulldogs to a 2-1 victory over Cal State Fullerton on Sunday out in California. It was her fourth goal in four games this season. Georgia (2-1-1) lost 3-2 to Long Beach State on Friday.

Here’s the rest of our UGA headlines from the weekend:

 


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