(Ed. note: Be advised, mild language and gore in this article, if you're sensitive to such things.)
Mrs. Vineyarddawg and I loaded up the car and left from Athens headed towards the Loveliest Little Village With A Lake at about 1:00 on Saturday. Including a stop for lunch, we arrived in Clemson at about 4:00. Actually, not horrible time, when you consider the Armageddon-level traffic for which the town is known.
We parked (an adventure in itself), got out of the car, and starting walking... encountering generally friendly fans on our tour around campus. We stopped to talk to a few and generally just hung out for a couple of hours. Most Tiger fans seemed nervous and anticipatory, and I was amazed that during the pregame festivities, I did not hear a single instance of trash talk aimed in my direction or in the direction of any other UGA fan of whom I was within earshot. And we walked around the Greek housing and dorm areas, too. Not a single drunken uttering aimed our way.
One of the best parts of the day for me was when we were able to catch the "Dawg Walk" at Memorial Stadium. (I use quotation marks because for away games, the Dawg Walk is basically just the group of people who happen to be at the correct gate, which they don't advertise, when the visiting team arrives, the time for which they also don't advertise.) The really awesome part of that experience was that Kolton Houston's family was on my immediate right. Let me tell you about the lump in my throat when Kolton walked off that bus and, with tears in his eyes, stopped and hugged his mama. Then about 8-9 other guys stopped and hugged her, too. It got SUPER danged dusty around there.
We then went into the stadium and somehow managed the 2,000m hike to the top of the Mount Everest deck with all the other Georgia fans before kickoff.
As for the game itself... well, you probably watched it. You know the end result. During the game, though, what I saw was precisely what I was afraid of when I penned my season preview and when I wrote this past week's On Notice article. Our defense tried hard, but was simply inexperienced at times. There were multiple situations where one of our younger defenders got beaten on a play because of a "rookie mistake" like over-pursuing or biting on a run fake (or, in one case, a toss fake).
Our offense, however... dear Lord. All those sound bites about "wanting to hit the ground running" and "being in mid-season form by the first game" seem pretty empty at this point. I simply did not recognize the player wearing Aaron Murray's jersey for the first 3 quarters. And we knew that Clemson's defensive line was their biggest strength on that side of the ball... but damn if our very-experienced offensive line didn't get pushed around like rag dolls most of the game. (For the record, I'll be sitting here patiently waiting for someone to apologize for raking me over the coals after putting Mike Bobo and the entire offense On Notice this past week. Any one of the many people who did this is welcome to chime in.)
In the end, you can put the blame on the offense, the defense, or their respective coordinators, but the bottom line was that we simply made too many mistakes. Most visibly on offense, we kept shooting ourselves not in the foot, but in the head. Boneheaded penalties, a 100% missed blocking assignment that resulted in Aaron Murray's fumble on a blindside sack, and quite probably the worst INT I've seen Murray throw in at least 2 years.
Was Georgia "the better team" on the field, as I heard some people in the stands say? Well, maybe... kind of in the way that Communism is the best form of government, as long as you don't consider the fact that humans (who are corrupt by nature) actually have to run it. The Dawgs seemed to display better potential at times. But your potential doesn't mean crap against a good team... You have to execute, and too many times we simply didn't. Those mistakes were what cost us the game.
It's easy after a game like this to declare that Clemson is a "legit national title contender" and that they'll "run away with the ACC" this year after that game. As for me, though, I didn't see a team that was leaps and bounds better than us... just one who made fewer mistakes. This is, after all, still Clemson. For all the whinging this week about "Clemsoning" being imminent in a potential face-plant in this game, what "Clemsoning" actually is is winning a game like this, then going on to lose to Wake Forest, Syracuse, or Boston College. I was a believer in The Fort Hill Felines' effort and result today, but lets see if they can sustain that long enough to defeat one of these "powerhouses" listed above that roll into their path throughout the sason.
With all that said, however, congratulations to the Country Gentlemen. They played a better game than us today, and in my eyes they deserved the victory that they received.
A few final closing thoughts:
- Our perception of the Dawgs should not be shattered at this point. There's no need to call for anyone to be fired or tied up and subjected to chinese water torture or anything like that. The sky is not falling. Our season's not destroyed because of this game. I still think 10-2 or 9-3 is an accurate projection, depending on whether we can play up to our potential against South Carolina. (Protip: I'm still sticking by my initial prediction of 0-2 to start the season.)
- Reason #1 I will not be going to Clemson again any time soon: the stadium attacked me. No, not the people inside it... THE STADIUM. After Todd Gurley's magnificent 70-something-yard touchdown run, the concrete risers at Memorial Stadium got really ticked off, reached up, and shredded part of my calf. (Picture only linked, not embedded. Warning: It's not pretty.)
- Reason #2 I will not be going to Clemson again any time soon: My 6 car magnets, which have survived nigh upon 10 trips to Jacksonville and cross-country drives to Arizona, Colorado, and Oklahoma, were stolen by some ignorant (expletive deleted) (expletive deleted) pig (expletive deleted) after the game.
- Reason #3 I will not be going to Clemson again any time soon: ALL. THE. SHIT-TALKING. after the game. If I hadn't already resolved to have a positive demeanor before leaving the stadium, I would have gotten jailed for assault on the walk back to my car. I might still have been, if I wasn't 90% sure the guy chanting something about "Georgia b*tches" in our immediate vicinity after the game wasn't directly referring to my wife (standing with me at the time). Someone hasn't yet learned the meaning of "winning with dignity."
- Final final closing thought: I don't care if there's a chance that you think someone is taking a dive to slow down your offense. YOU DON'T BOO INJURED PLAYERS ON THE FIELD. I'll admit that out of all the times our boys were booed, 2 of those injuries might have legitimately been questionable. Even after the initial booing, though, when it's clear the guy is actually injured, WHY DO YOU KEEP BOOING HIM AS HE IS BEING HELPED OFF THE FIELD? Perhaps Clemson fans don't realize how truly classless and abhorrent this practice is. Or maybe they're just assholes. I don't know.
I'm looking forward to moving on from this game with On Notice in about 12 hours or so. (The "On Notice" posts are our more-or-less official transition into the new game week, where we start looking forward instead of back.) Until then...