How 'bout them Dawgs?!
Kudos are in order for the Georgia Bulldogs for taking down a very talented and determined South Carolina football team Between the Hedges yesterday. Allow me to personally congratulate Aaron Murray for getting the
monkey chicken off his back and playing one of the best games I can remember in his impressive career at UGA.
Enjoy it, Aaron, you earned every second of it. via ww1.hdnux.com
So without trying to rip off Dave's 15 Thoughts too much, allow me to share a few impressions I had yesterday while watching the game in a jam-packed game-watching bar in our nation's capital, swimming in a sea of red and black.
1. When Georgia's offense plays like it did against Clemson, the Dawgs can still beat about 70% of the teams on their schedule. When Georgia's offense plays like it did against South Carolina, they can beat 97-100% of them.
If not for some key turnovers and other miscues, I'm still convinced that Georgia could have beaten Clemson last week. But that's all water under the bridge. Let's move on.
There were so many positives to take from the South Carolina game. Georgia's much-maligned offensive line and quarterback manhandled and carved up one of the country's best defensive lines and (mostly) rendered their super-phenom defensive lineman ineffective.
Aaron Murray, who was called out by even the most loyal Dawg fans in the aftermath of the loss at orange Death Valley last week, played like a man possessed with a QB rating of 92.9. Murray put all that "can't win the big one talk" where it belonged and racked up 309 yards with four touchdowns against one of the more stingy defenses in the country.
Yeah, I'm so scared of you, Clowney... via sphotos-b-lga.xx.fbcdn.net
Georgia's running game was also stellar, as we knew it should be to beat a physical team like South Carolina. Todd Gurley did his thing, racking up 134 yards on 30 carries with a rushing TD, and was not shy about running right into the teeth of a ferocious SC defensive line. Keith Marshall did not find the end zone (on the ground, at least), but tallied 58 yards on only seven carries, one of which went for 28 yards. Marshall left the game with an injury and we wish him a speedy recovery. I hope it was nothing serious.
But how about Brendan Douglas stepping up for the injured Marshall?! The lightly-recruited true freshman tailback from Augusta took it to the folks on the other side of the river, absolutely humiliating an SC defensive back on his first collegiate carry, a 17-yard stomp across midfield. Douglas finished the game with 31 yards on only five carries.
Anyone who knows me well on this blog knows that I love a good fullback. Quayvon Hicks, ladies and gentlemen, is a good fullback. Hicks has become an extremely reliable ballcarrier for the Dawgs and broke free for another big run in this one, a 15-yard scamper late in the game. Hicks finished with 28 yards on only four carries.
Not to overlook the receivers, of course. The star of the receiving corps last night was definitely Justin Scott-Wesley, who is filling in admirably for the injured Malcolm Mitchell so far. JSW put the game away with a phenomenal 85-yard TD reception from Murray, showing the kind of speed for which he was so well known in high school. Man, did he burn that SC DB! TE Arthur Lynch came up with a huge TD reception on a play-action pass from Murray in the 1st quarter to open the scoring for the Dawgs and was his usual reliable self. Michael Bennett and Rhett McGowan also snagged Murray passes for big yardage at opportune times.
Well done, young man. via onlineathens.com
And let's give the offensive line their due. The difference in play on the OL between this game and the one at Clemson was night and day. They mostly kept Jedeveon Clowney and friends at bay all game, giving Murray time to carve up the vaunted SC defense. We knew coming into this game that all the lights would be shining on the Georgia left tackle and how he could contain Clowney. Kenarious Gates, for the most part, did a very solid job on Clowney yesterday and should be commended for keeping the phenom DL away from Murray. Gates left the game with an ankle injury, which I hope and pray is nothing serious. Mark Beard performed admirably in the absence of Gates and I hope to see more of him in the OL mix as we get deeper into the season.
I got this. via vmedia.rivals.com
This kind of diversity and balance on offense kept the South Carolina D guessing all night, spreading them out way more widely than they cared to be spread. When Georgia's offense executes like this, there aren't many teams that can keep up.
2. Georgia's defense is still a work in progress, but we should be encouraged by what we saw.
OK, so the secondary got burned on at least two SC touchdown passes and Gamecock RB Mike Davis outrushed Gurley on the night with 149 yards on only 16 carries, but Coach Grantham's boys stepped up when they needed to, most notably when they stuffed Davis on 4th and goal from the Georgia 1-yard line in the 4th quarter. This was a huge coup for the D and I liked what I saw from the Georgia D on SC's final drive of the game.
Junkyard Dawgs keeping Mike Davis out of the end zone on 4th down via a.espncdn.com
True freshman Brendan Langley let a very talented WR in Nick Jones get behind him on two SC TDs, but this is all part of the learning curve. I expect Langley, and the other young DBs for that matter, to star for the Dawgs one of these days. Man, did I want him to have that dropped INT yesterday! What a confidence-builder that would have been. Next time, Brendan, next time.
3. For all the buzz surrounding the SC defense, their offense is pretty darn good.
Some SC fans are down on QB Connor Shaw for his tendency to lose road games. The kid did everything he could to win this road game and earned a heck of a lot of respect from yours truly yesterday. He wasn't Aaron Murray, but not many QBs are. Shaw had ice water in his veins Between the Hedges and slung the ball around a good bit, connecting with his WR Jones on some beautiful pass plays that went for scores. He also racked up 75 yards on the ground, rushing 16 times.
I wouldn't trade Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall for anyone, but I was a little bummed that Georgia couldn't sign Mike Davis out of Stephenson High School in 2012. Yesterday he showed me why I'd have liked to have had him in red and black. Anytime you outrush Todd Gurley, who I think should be on everyone's Heisman list right now, you deserve a great deal of respect. Davis is not Marcus Lattimore (thank God) but he is a very talented back whom our D will have to learn to stop in 2014 in Columbia.
Shaq Roland was the only SC receiver of whom I had heard before this game, but I know them all know. They remind me a good bit of Georgia's receiving corps- very deep and very talented, never to be taken lightly.
4. Sanford Stadium can be an intimidating place.
For all the talk about our home stadium being a relatively tame place, it looked to be rocking yesterday with 92,746 strong screaming and yelling whenever Connor Shaw and company were on the field. This was a huge game for the Dawgs and the fans sure showed up to let the team knew they had their backs. The Bulldog faithful did a great job of letting the Gamecocks know how unwelcome they were in the Classic City. After last year's humiliation in Columbia where the fans had quite a say in the outcome, I was happy to see this. Way to go, Dawg fans lucky enough to live close enough to Athens to go to games regularly! Hats off to you all.
5. Enjoy this one, but we still have a lot of work to do.
This guy in the middle will be playing in Sanford Stadium this season, but he won't be wearing red and black. via static.mobile.espn.go.com
The big win yesterday gives the Dawgs a leg up in the SEC East race, but ask any SC fan what winning this game means in the scheme of things and they'll give you an answer you probably don't want to hear. Georgia has two weeks until another ferocious SEC squad in LSU comes calling. Granted, the Bayou Bengals lost a ton of talent last year, but this team recruits with the best of them and is looking impressive so far this season. LSU, of course, features former Georgia QB Zach Mettenberger, dismissed from the team for having poor judgement in a certain drinking establishment. This is another "must win" game and I hope to see Sanford Stadium just as crazy as it was yesterday.
But for now, let's all enjoy a big-time win over a talented team and worry about prepping for North Texas after the bye week.