ATHENS — Todd Gurley did a little bit of everything for the Bulldogs averaging 13.2 yards running the ball 15 times gaining 198 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran back a kickoff for a touchdown and be caught a pass as the Bulldogs defeated Clemson 45-21 at Sanford Stadium with a win on Saturday.
He went on to have one of the best games in Georgia history setting the bar at 293 all-purpose yards shattering the old record of 290 set by Rodney Hampton in 1987.
“I had more energy than I usually do,” he said. “It’s always good to see a defensive guy in the offensive huddle so when they see an offensive guy in their huddle they get more pumped up and start feeling more confident.”
Clemson (0-1) and the Georgia (1-0) offense’s started the game doing what they had to in order to come out of the game with a win. The Tigers had 276 yards of total offense with the Bulldogs only accumulating 113 yards. The majority of the Clemson yards came in the air gaining 174 yards with another 102 on the ground.
Despite being in a deficit for total yards in the first half, the second half belonged to Georgia as they gained 346 yards while holding Clemson to 15 yards of offense.
“Defensively in the second half, we took a little pressure off our corners by not playing as much man coverage. We challenged our men inside to keep them from running the football and we got a lot of good stuff,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “(Leonard) Floyd and (Jordan) Jenkins on the edge are formidable guys and our inside linebackers played well for the most part. They moved the ball some on us, but after a little while, we shut that down as well.
“I want to tell the fans thank you. They were awesome. The Dog Walk was phenomenal. It was as good as it’s ever been. Clemson had to use some timeouts because of the noise and everyone had the red-out in mind.”
Of Georgia’s four second half scoring drives, outscoring Clemson 24-0, the final two touchdowns came after one play. Freshman Nick Chubb, who had 70 yards rushing on four carries, scored on a 47-yard run with 8:53 left in the game while Gurley got his fourth touchdown of the night scoring a 51-yard run with 7:34 on the clock.
“We knew we had fine backs and we knew at some point in the game that we’d have fresh legs in there and tired people trying to tackle them. And that’s what happened in the second half,” Richt said.
The kicking game played a big part in possibly shifting the momentum to Georgia’s favor as Tigers kicker Ammon Lakip missed a 34-yard attempt with 48 seconds left before the first half. On the other hand, Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan was able to make his 27-yard kick with 11:27 in the third quarter giving the Bulldogs the 24-21 lead.
Morgan’s kick tied the Tennessee kicker Faud Reveiz for the SEC record with 18 consecutive field goals.
The Bulldogs defense spend a lot of time in the Clemson backfield as they had five sacks for 38-yards in loss and nine tackles for a 45-yard loss.
Amarlo Herrera and Floyd each had two sacks with Josh Dawson getting the other one. Herrera also led the defense in total tackles (12) and tackles for a loss with 3.5. Dawson had 2.5 tackles for a loss with Floyd getting two behind the line.
“I feel very comfortable playing around like that because in Prep School I played multiple positions,” Floyd said. “(Defensive coordinator Jeremy) Pruitt just put me in the right position to make plays and I was able to do that.”
Georgia’s defense came out playing with a chip on their shoulder after their dismal season last year. This year’s defense came out hitting hard, making solid tackles and separating the ball loose from the receiver which they did four times in the first quarter.
But their dominance seemed to end when Clemson brought out true freshman quarterback from Gainesville, Ga. Deshaun Watson at the end of the first half. Watson led the Tigers to a six-play 78-yard touchdown drive including a 30 pass to Charone Peake threading the ball between two Georgia defenders to tie the game at 14.
It seemed that all Clemson starting quarterback Cole Stoudt had to do was sit back for a a little bit. After returning to the game following Watson’s series, Stoudt took the Tigers into the end zone on 10 plays and 68 yards to give Clemson the 21-14 lead with 7:28 left in the half.
“I think I played good. I think I could have made a few better decisions. I wasn’t perfect, you’re never really perfect, so I think I’m going to have to go into the film room and see how I did when we go in there (today) and Monday to evaluate myself,” Stoudt said. “But overall I think I did pretty good.”
However, Gurley’s 100-yard kickoff return, which ties an NCAA record and his second in his career as a Bulldog, gave the momentum back to the Bulldogs. The defense fed off the crowd as Aaron Davis intercepted Stoudt’s pass giving the Georgia offense on the Tigers 48 with 5:48 left in the half.
The Bulldogs ended up with two fumbles including losing one which was forced by Rockdale’s Grady Jarrett who also had three solo tackles.
“We just didn’t tackle. The aim of the defense is to get the guy on the ground. It’s flexible, but we knew what we were getting when we came into this game,” Jarrett said. “They have great running backs and to be successful we had to tackle them and make the play. We did a good job of that for three quarters but then it got away from us, so we’ve got to learn from it and get better.”