A Rambling Recap of Clemson

When I received word that it would be my turn to make a blog post for this week, I initially wanted to touch on some sort of broad sports topic or maybe something involving Fox Sports One’s attempt to compete for viewers with ESPN. In truth, though, my mind is still muddled with memories of this weekend’s loss by my Georgia Bulldogs to the Clemson Tigers that have lingered like a bad Michael Bay movie: there was lots of action and some decent performances by the leads but in the end I was just thoroughly disappointed. So, in order to hopefully clear my mind of this frustration, I’m going to use this blog to talk (or vent) about the game and what I liked or mostly, what I didn’t like from the Bulldogs.

Overall, I was actually pretty pleased with the defensive effort put forth by Georgia. I know that sounds a little outrageous given that they gave up 38 points, but I really believe that Clemson has one of the best offenses in the country and will likely be the best offense that we face all year. Additionally, I saw some serious future playmakers emerge in linebackers Amario Herrera, Leonard Floyd and true freshmen cornerback Brendan Langley, who held his own surprisingly well against one of the best wide receivers in the country in Sammy Watkins. With that said, I really can’t understand how after three years of being here, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is still in a position where he has to start two true freshmen and a walk-on in the secondary. I admire Connor Norman and I’m sure he puts forth a tremendous effort every week in practice, but there is no way that he should be starting at safety for the supposed number five team in the country. I know there have been injuries in the secondary this offseason but there must be someone better or at least more talented they could have trotted out there. I’d take a missed assignment here or there from someone else if it meant they could’ve provided Georgia with a better chance at making a big play or forcing a turnover, two things they desperately needed and that I’m skeptical Norman is capable of delivering. Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons’ return from suspension can hopefully provide the secondary with a much-needed boost for the South Carolina game.  I really believe that the defense as a whole, though, will be fine as the season progresses. There is more depth along the line and at linebacker than I can remember in years. If the secondary can just be adequate, the defense should be impressive by season’s end.

As for the offense, I came away very disappointed. Again, I know that sounds outrageous given that they scored 35 points. The play calling and quarterback play, though, were poor enough to leave me with a sour taste. On the play-calling front, I still cannot fathom Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo’s inability to take advantage of the strengths of his offense. His running backs are at their best in space where they can outrun the defense or use their vision to find cut back lanes. Look no further than at Todd Gurley’s two run scores: one a toss sweep where he was able to beat the entire defense with his speed, and the other an off-tackle play that initially looked like a loss of yards before Gurley was able to turn nothing into something and cut back to get into the endzone. But what did Bobo continue to run, despite these successes? Vanilla run plays right up the gut for minimal gain.  Early in the fourth quarter, with first and goal from the five, Georgia was presented with a great opportunity to take back the lead. Rather than playing to these strengths, however, they ran Marshall out of the gun straight up the middle for a yard, Gurley out of the I straight up the middle for a yard, and a FB dive straight up the middle for no gain. One botched snap later on a field goal attempt and suddenly the offense comes up with zero points on the drive. The lack of creativity is just baffling at times.

As for quarterback Aaron Murray, it’s always more about the glaring mistakes than the good plays with him. 20-29 for 323 yards would be a solid to spectacular outing for most quarterbacks. Anybody that watched the game knows, however, that he committed some crucial errors that were integral in the loss. The best example of this was his interception in the first half. Clemson’s lone turnover in the game occurred when they muffed a punt in their own territory with about 2:00 left in the second quarter that presented Georgia with a golden opportunity to take a lead into halftime. Unsurprisingly, though, on the very next play Murray failed to recognize a DE dropping into coverage and threw it right into his hands, squandering all momentum for the Bulldogs. Leading up to this game, I was never a part of the crowd that nitpicked incessantly about Murray’s poor record in big games. I thought he played tremendous in the SEC championship last year and I believed that he was more a victim of circumstance than someone who couldn’t win the big one. At some point, though, the losing seizes to be a coincidence. He is now a putrid 3-12 against teams that ended the season ranked in the top 25 (I don’t think it’s premature to say that the Tigers will end the year in the top 25). I certainly still think that this team is best off with Murray at the helm, and there will obviously be plenty of opportunities for him to improve that record as the season progresses. Until that happens though, any talks of him as an elite quarterback need to be put in sports topic purgatory.

So, similar to the past two seasons, Georgia has dug itself a hole with an early loss. However, in those seasons they also showed a tremendous amount of spunk by recovering to eventually reach the SEC Championship. The schedule certainly seems to be comparatively tougher this year but I think it would be shortsighted to count them out until we see what they look like in SEC play. The good news: you won’t have to wait long to find out, as the Bulldogs will play host to South Carolina this week and LSU in two weeks. The bad news: a 1-3 start to the season is now very much in play.

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