THE TEN AT 10
1. Georgia rushed for 328 yards against Clemson and 283 of that came after halftime. Todd Gurley and the Bulldogs’ other young tailbacks certainly deserve a lot credit for that as they pounded the ball against the Tigers’ tired defense well into the fourth quarter. But quarterback Hutson Mason believes UGA’s offensive coaches deserve some credit, too.
Mason didn’t want to get too specific about the adjustments that the coaches made as the game got deep into the third quarter, but he said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and line coach Will Friend noticed something Clemson was doing to thwart the Bulldogs’ power game and they adjusted Georgia’s blocking schemes to take advantage of it.
“Those plays were toss sweeps, but systematically they weren’t schemed up like we planned,” Mason said after Georgia’s 45-21 win Saturday night. “Coach Bobo and Coach Friend did a phenomenal job over there of seeing it and they said, ‘hey, this is what we’re going to do: We’re going to change (the blocking scheme) and declare here.’ And we gashed them. For those guys to see that over on the sideline and change that up real quick is something people don’t see and they don’t get enough credit for it.”
Georgia had scoring runs of 18 (Gurley), 47 (Nick Chubb) and 51 yards (Gurley) on toss sweeps to the right side in the fourth quarter. In each case, the Bulldogs were pulling center David Andrews into the running lane and getting fullback Taylor Maxey downfield to block the Tigers’ safety.
“We kind of figured out how they were playing it a little different and we said ‘let’s declare here compared to where we were doing, let’s put another guy on the safety and get some better angles,’” Mason said. “Football’s all about numbers and angles and we just switched that up a little. People don’t notice that kind of stuff, but making adjustments like that is what makes Coach Bobo and Coach Friend so good.”
2. Of course, it helps to have a tailback like Gurley toting the pigskin, and he’s earning a lot of notice for Saturday’s performance. On Sunday he was named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week and, on Monday, the SEC bestowed him with its weekly offensive award.
Gurley shared SEC offensive player of the week honors with Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill. Gurley established a school record with 293 all-purpose yards, breaking the former record of 290 set by Rodney Hampton in 1987. He scored four touchdowns in the game and finished with his 14th career rushing game of 100 yards or more with a 198 yards on just 15 carries (13.2 average). His final carry was a 51-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, the last of three rushing touchdowns.
Gurley also tied an NCAA record by returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. This marked his second career 100-yard return for a score after he returned one against Buffalo during his first game as a Bulldog.
3. Georgia inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera was also honored by the SEC for his performance against Clemson. The senior from College Park matched his career high in tackles with 12 — it was his ninth career game with 10 or more stops – and he added two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss.
Herrera anchored a Bulldogs defense that held the Tigers scoreless in the second half and to just 15 yards of total offense and one first down in the final two quarters. It was the first SEC award of Herrera’s career.
“Everybody’s just kind of on the same page,” Herrera said after Saturday’s game. “When everybody plays with confidence, it boils. Everybody’s just playing their hardest every time.”
4. As for Mason, you could tell he wasn’t thrilled with his individual performance in the Bulldogs’ opener. The fifth-year senior from Marietta completed 18 of his 26 passes (69.2 percent) for 131 yards and did not have a touchdown pass.
But as coach Mark Richt proudly pointed out, Mason didn’t have an interception or a turnover. He did have the ball knocked loose once under heavy pass rush but recovered it. But Mason’s game management was superior.
“It was a solid performance,” Richt said. “No picks. I don’t think he threw a ball that could have been an interception, so he made good decisions in the passing game. He hit 69 percent of his passes, but I thought he did a great job of getting us in the right running plays and helped us out in some of our protections. We’ll get better at throwing and catching. We weren’t as sharp as I had hoped. A lot of that was because of the pressure Clemson’s defensive front was applying whether it rushing from the edge or some of the pressures and blitzes that they brought which causes some issues. But overall, I thought Hutson was had a real solid game.”
As he said from the outset of the season, Mason is focused only on bottom-line results.
“I don’t care if I throw for one yard and we win,” said Mason, who backed up Aaron Murray for the previous four years. “If you wait around for this one year and you’ve got one shot at this, records aren’t on my mind. Just winning a championship and dancing in the glitter is. … We played good enough to win and we won, so I’m happy.”
5. Georgia did not practice on Monday but the Bulldogs did get together for meetings and film review. Richt was on the Paul Finebaum Show on Monday and shared the conversation he had with the team.
“I kept saying, ‘thank God for film because if there was no film and all we could go by was how we felt after the game and what everybody is talking about us, we’d be in trouble,’” Richt told Finebaum. “When you turn on the film, you see the flaws. We know there are issues. We know there are certain things we got away with and if we don’t get them right we’re not going to get away with them in another game. Someone is going to make us pay.”
Even though the game was tied 21-all at halftime, the Bulldogs were thoroughly outplayed by Clemson in the first half. The Tigers out-gained them 276 yards to 113, had run twice as many offensive plays (54 to 27) and were a missed field goal and interception away from further dominating the contest.
“Just because we had a victory doesn’t mean we’re a great football team by any stretch,” Richt said. “We have a long way to go and we’ve even played an SEC game yet.”
6. The best news for Georgia is it has a week off to work on its shortcomings. Meanwhile, South Carolina, its next opponent, has to busy itself getting ready for its next opponent, East Carolina.
The Pirates, it should be noted, run the exact same offense as Texas A&M used to victimize the Gamecocks for 680 yards of offense. East Carolina’s quarterback is a pretty good player, too. Senior Shane Carden (6-2, 221) came into the season with a career completion percentage of 70.5
In the meantime, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier announced that running back Mike Davis is “sort of doubtful” to play in Saturday’s game. The junior tailback from Stone Mountain has bruised ribs.
7. As for Georgia’s tailbacks, their hierarchy was finally revealed against Clemson. Freshman Sony Michel was the second one in the game after Gurley, though he initially lined up as a flanker. Keith Marshall was the second player to line up at tailback but appeared to be lacking some of his burst post-knee surgery and finished with only eight yards on six carries. Freshman Nick Chubb did not get into the game until the fourth quarter and sophomore Brendan Douglas did not get any snaps at tailback.
Michel had 33 yards on six attempts and also had three receptions for another 20 yards. Chubb finished with 70 yards on four carries (17.5 ypc), all in the fourth quarter.
Chubb was able to laugh about it after the game but he admitted he began to wonder if he was ever going to get in.
“The first half I didn’t play a snap and I was wondering,” said the 5-10, 228-pound boulder from Cedartown. “Coach B-Mac (Bryan McClendon) just said, ‘you’re up.’ I was a little nervous but, I mean, in the end it’s just football. I’ve been doing it my whole life. I took advantage of it when I did and it was a great experience.”
8. Georgia might have discovered a real hidden gem in Aaron Davis. Not only did the redshirt freshman walkon from Locust Grove start the game at free safety, he also played almost every defensive snap of the game for the Bulldogs, switching between safety and boundary corner.
“It just depended on (Clemson’s) personnel and what Coach wanted,” Davis said of defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt. “It’s hard to remember, but the second half I played mostly boundary corner I think.”
Wherever he was, Davis mostly played well. He had four tackles and recorded the Bulldogs’ first interception of the season from his free safety spot, breaking hard on the ball and leaping to snatch the ball out of the air in what looked for a second might be an opportunity for a pick-six.
“Yeah, I guess a ladybug tripped me up,” Davis said with a laugh. “I kind of fell. I felt like I should have stayed up and I would’ve had a chance to score if I did. But it was definitely good to make a play for my team.”
But Davis also said he has much to improve on. He pointed out it was him who missed what should have been a short-yardage tackle on Clemson receiver Mike Williams, who instead shook him off for a 38-yard gain in the first quarter.
“That was inexcusable,” Davis said. “I knew what was going to happen and I tried to make a play. I just didn’t follow my technique right and didn’t secure the tackle. I tried to maybe do a little too much.”
9. As revealing as it was to see who played in the game for Georgia, it was equally as revealing to see who did not.
On offense, neither wide receiver Jonathon Rumph nor tight end Jordan Davis got in, according to the postgame participation chart. On defense, cornerbacks Shattle Fenteng and Malkom Parrish did not see any action. In all four cases, the players seemed very active in Georgia’s two-deep during practices.
10. UGA grad Chris Kirk moved to the top spot in the FedEx Cup points race this past weekend with his win in the Deutsche Bank Championship. The question now if that will be enough to move captain Tom Watson to select Kirk for the U.S. Ryder Cup. With another win and three other Top 10s this season, Kirk entered golf’s postseason 14th in the Ryder Cup standings.
“I certainly don’t feel entitled or feel like I’m a shoe-in to get a pick,” Kirk said after his victory, in which he matched pairing Rory McIlroy shot for shot. “I obviously really put myself into consideration and it’s something that I would love to do.”