Posted: 2:36 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, 2013
After Georgia lost to Clemson last Saturday, there was a bit of tut-tutting about how Aaron Murray lost another big game. There even was a FanPost put up on DawgSports going over his record agains the top 25 in his defense.
Really though, that wasn't necessary to defend Murray after that particular loss. It was, in large part, on the offensive line.
This game was always going to be a tight one that would be won on the margins. No, Murray's two turnovers did not help, and the interception was 100% on him. However, his fumble came while being sacked after Clemson DE Corey Crawford just shoved RT Kolton Houston out of his way. The sack actually was credited in the play-by-play to LB Stephone Anthony, who initially got blocked by two linemen while blitzing, but he casually pushed off of them and shifted to his left to get an unimpeded path to the quarterback. Murray had no chance. It was deep in Bulldog territory too, so the potent Clemson offense got set up shot 16 yards from the end zone. The Tigers got a touchdown five plays later.
Why was Georgia so backed up? Partly it was due to the defense giving up the field position three drives prior. Partly it was because the offense got none of it back when it went three-and-out two drives prior. On that drive, Murray got blindsided by DE Vic Beasley who barely got touched on his way to Murray. That was a manageable 3rd-and-five, but the play never had a shot.
Coming out of halftime, Murray somehow lost track of time and got a delay of game. Not ideal, but five yards is something an offense as good as Georgia's can overcome. In fact, they picked most of it up on the next play. Or, they would have, except C David Andrews added 10 more yards on top of that with a hold. He was holding because DT Grady Jarrett was trucking him, and Murray would've gotten hammered otherwise. Either way, it was going a big loss thanks to the line. That backed the Bulldogs up to 1st-and-25 on their own 10, and the ensuing punt set Clemson up just 55 yards away from the end zone. The Tigers scored a touchdown seven plays later.
Late in the third quarter, a long pass play and penalty on top of it put the offense first-and-goal at Clemson's five. Three running plays later, it was fourth-and-goal at the two. Georgia would end up muffing the field goal attempt, but that was still at least four points lost due to getting poor-to-no push up front. The game's final margin was three.
The point at which Clemson really got control over the game was after its 12 play, 87 yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. It put the Tigers up by ten. On the ensuing drive, the line opened up a hole for Todd Gurley to get 23 yards and put the team near midfield. They gave about half of that back two plays later when Andrews got another hold while trying to make up for getting beat. That created a 2nd-and-15 that the offense couldn't overcome. UGA punted, giving it up while down ten with under six minutes to go. That's never a position you want to be in.
The line wasn't a total disaster. It helped Gurley rush for over seven yards a carry even after you take out his 75-yard run, and the offense did gain 545 yards. However, four sacks and five tackles for loss allowed backed the team up 53 yards. Both of Clemson's shortest scoring drives were set up at least in part by line mistakes: the sack-and-strip before the 16-yard TD and hold before the 55-yard TD. It was not a good game for the line at all. As least as much as anything, if not more so, the line cost the the team the game.
Now comes South Carolina with an even better defensive front than what Clemson had. We all know about Jadeveon Clowney, but Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton are excellent too. Plus, SI's Andy Staples studied the Carolina-Carolina game and discovered that double teaming Clowney basically did nothing. Georgia is going to need to grind out some long drives to make him tired again, but that's not going to happen if guys are holding to keep Murray's head from being knocked off.
The best hope is that this group just had a bad first game in a hostile environment and that coming home will help tremendously. It better, or else it's going to give the Bulldogs another loss.