Georgia is a special football team when Todd Gurley has the ball in his hands, and something less than that when he doesn’t. We have plenty of evidence supporting that thesis.
Through one half against Clemson, it’s clear Georgia coaches are limiting Gurley’s reps in an effort to keep him in the game, and effective, throughout the entire game. As it stands at the break, the all-everything junior has just four rushes for 44 yards and a 23-yard touchdown (to go with one reception for a loss of five yards), and a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown that tied Clemson at 21 apiece at the 7:15 mark of the second quarter. Georgia runners other than Gurley have combined for 14 yards on seven carries, while new starter Hutson Mason has connected on 11-of-16 passes for only 68 yards.
On the opposite sideline, Tigers offensive coordinator Chad Morris has juggled snaps for quarterbacks Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson with mostly positive results. Stoudt has gotten the majority of the reps, completing only 9-of-20 passes for 115 yards and an interception, but adding some important rushes for an additional 27 yards. Watson led one of Clemson’s three scoring drives by rushing once for seven yards and completing two of his three passes for 59 yards and a fabulous 30-yard touchdown pass on a rope to Charone Peake.
Overall, Clemson outgained Georgia by a two-to-one margin (276-113) and allowed the ‘Dogs just nine first downs, but special teams breakdowns (the aforementioned Gurley kick return, plus a missed field goal by Ammon Lakip in the final minute of the half) prevented the Tigers from owning the scoreboard in the same way it dominated the box score.
With the game tied at 21-21 and the Bulldogs slated to touch the ball another half-dozen times or so, expect Georgia to give the rock to their all-terrain vehicle of a running back early and often in the second half.