Clemson and Georgia was everything it was expected to be on offense, trading blows with each other for most of the night until Clemson finally delivered a knock out blow. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd completed a touchdown pass to Stanton Seckinger midway through the fourth quarter to give the home team their largest lead of the night. Georgia cut in to a double-digit Clemson lead in the final minutes, but an offsides kick was recovered by Clemson to essentially lock up a win in a battle of top ten programs, 38-35.
This one was all about the offenses. Georgia out-gained Clemson in total yards, 544-467. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray passed for 323 yards but failed to throw a touchdown pass (he dud rush for one in the final minutes from the goal line). Murray was also picked off once by Clemson. His counterpart, Clemson’s Boyd, had a much better performance by passing for 270 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for two more and had zero interceptions.
The running backs for both sides also had big time performances. Clemson’s Roderick McDowell rushed for 132 yards, but Georgia’s Todd Gurley led all players with 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns. After making some strong statements in the off-season about his confidence, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins recorded 127 receiving yards and a touchdown in the season opener.
Both teams showed they have some holes on defense, but perhaps that was expected. Georgia’s defense was not a lock-down type of defense last year but they had a knack for creating turnovers. Georgia created one turnover but the offense lost the football twice.
So, what’s next? Georgia has the tougher road ahead of them of course. Next week the Bulldogs take on South Carolina, a team that has been a hurdle for Georgia in recent years. South Carolina also gets a couple of extra days to prepare for the game after opening their season on Thursday night.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt will surely be placed back in the cross hairs of critics after losing the season opener and some already dipping their pends in the ink well to write off Richt and Georgia against their SEC East rivals from Columbia, South Carolina. It is not an easy situation to be in, but even a loss to South Carolina might not be enough to completely ruin a run for an SEC title. But Georgia was within yards of a spot in the BCS Championship Game last season and fans are waiting to see Georgia get over that hump. A season opening loss to an ACC team, albeit a good ACC team and on the road, will not sit well for Georgia and their fans. Not when Alabama steam rolled Virginia Tech, South Carolina took care of North Carolina and Florida managed to put together a solid effort despite a handful of suspensions.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is as far removed from a hot seat as possible. Clemson became the first non-SEC team to win consecutive games against top ten SEC teams, dating back to the Chick-fil-A Bowl victory over LSU last December. Clemson’s offense lived up to the hype and they should be tough to beat in ACC play. The key games on the schedule remain Florida State and South Carolina, but the Tigers should always be placed on upset alert it seems thanks to a tendency to fall victim to an act of Clemsoning at the least convenient of times.
Next week the Tigers stay home to play host to FCS South carolina State, and it should not be expected that Clemson falls victim to the FCS bug that seems to be going around this opening week. Clemson’s first road trip will come the following week when they take on North Carolina State in an early ACC contest. NC State blasted Louisiana Tech 40-14 in their season opener. The Wolfpack lost quarterback Brandon Mitchell to a broken foot, that will require surgery.