CHARLOTTE, N.C. — What a classic by Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs! I surely did not believe only thirteen points would be scored between two top five teams. If you are a Clemson Tigers fan, you probably are disappointed in the offense and being unable to generate points. Meanwhile if you are a fan of the ‘Dawgs, you are ecstatic because you just beat a rival and top five team as this game was hyped up since the spring.
Here are five things we’ve learned from Saturday night’s showdown in Uptown Charlotte.
The Bulldogs defense is elite
Georgia’s defense is elite. It’s a championship winning defense that down a Clemson offense that is known for putting up points. Six players sacked Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei as the Bulldogs’ defense finished with seven sacks on the night, one shy of the school record. The Bulldogs held the Tigers offense to two yards rushing and 178 yards through the air. Headlined by Jordan Davis, the 6’6″ 330 pound defensive tackle from Charlotte had one sack, three tackles, and two tackles for loss. The Clemson offensive line double-teamed Davis for most of the night and it allowed others to feast upon Uiagalelei.
As Kirby Smart said, “You are either elite or you’re not,” and the Bulldogs defense showed that they are.
Bulldogs won field position
This is one stat that stood out to me last night in the game between both teams. Early on and even throughout the game, the Bulldogs won the field position battle all night long. The average start of position for the Tigers in the first half was on their own 20 while the Bulldogs started on their own 28. While Georgia’s average starting position was on their 27 for the game to the Tigers’ 25, field position played a huge part in the Bulldogs being able to move down the field and get opportunities.
Also, Georgia’s special teams pinned Clemson deep in their territory multiple times Saturday night. Bulldogs punter Jake Carmada averaged 43.4 yards on five punts. In future top five match-ups, Georgia must continue win the field of position to give their defense a greater advantage.
Georgia’s offense needs to improve and so does Clemson
Everybody is talking about how they are disappointed in Georgia’s offense and those sentiments are deserved. The Bulldogs managed to put up only three points and struggled to capitalize on opportunities. Nonetheless, outside of J.T. Daniels interception in the third quarter, the offense did not turn the ball over when it mattered the most. While Daniels probably misses talented receivers such as George Pickens, Arik Gilbert, and Dominick Blaylock, as the season continues this will be the perfect time to give their players more reps and improve. Do not expect the Bulldogs offense to score only three points in any game the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, Clemson only generated 180 yards of total offense and finished with two yards rushing. Yes, just two. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei finished 19-37, 178 yards and one interception. While I also do not expect the Tigers to only put up three points again, their offense needs improvement as the season goes on. I do expect Uiagalelei to find Justyn Ross and Joseph Ngata as they play South Carolina State this week.
Give the Bulldogs offensive line their flowers
It’s easy to critique the Georgia offense overall, however the offensive line showed up when it mattered the most. They allowed only one sack on the night while gashing the Tigers defensive line down the stretch and allowed running back Zamir White to convert first downs on bruising runs. Additionally, Bulldogs finished with 121 yards rushing in the game.
J.T. Daniels is still the quarterback
This may seem obvious but some worried that Smart should have pulled Daniels sometime in the game because Georgia’s offense struggled, mightily at times. Daniels showed that he is still the best quarterback option right now for the Bulldogs and put them in the best position to win the game. Daniels finished 22-30, 135 yards and one interception in this game and managed the offense well against a great defense for the Tigers. Expect more from Daniels and the Bulldogs offense as the season goes on.