We theorized at halftime that Todd Gurley’s four first-half carries were a result of No. 12 Georgia coaches saving him for the all-important second half. Gurley rushed only 11 times in the second half. Those 11 carries, though, went for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
Add it all up and you get 15 carries for 198 yards and three touchdowns, a 100-yard kickoff return for a fourth touchdown, and our first bona fide Heisman Trophy front-runner performance of 2014.
Aside from his own numbers, Gurley’s battering ram effect open the floodgates for the entire Bulldog backfield. The same Georgia runners that accounted for only 14 yards on seven carries – aside from Gurley’s 44 – in the first half ended the night with cold-clocking No. 16 Clemson’s touted defensive line for a total of 328 rushing yards. Nick Chubb carried four times for 70 yards and a 47-yard score, and would have had another if not for a penalty. Sony Michel added 33 yards on six carries. Hutson Mason added 131 yards on 18-of-26 passing.
Elsewhere, Clemson’s two-quarterback system collapsed in on itself after a productive (276 yards of total offense) first half. Their longest second half possession? Four plays for 19 yards. Jeremy Pruitt’s defense got more and more suffocating as the game went on; Clemson’s final three possessions went minus-three, minus-six and minus-19 yards. In seven second-half possessions, the Tigers produced seven punts and 15 total yards.
In a related story, after a 21-21 first half, Georgia won the second half 24-0.
In the end, the night belonged to Gurley. The talent is there – clearly. If he can stay healthy, and this is where those 15 precious carries are so crucial, and he’ll have his name booked for a flight to New York in December.