We continue our countdown of the top ten games of the last decade of Georgia Bulldog football with one of the most viscerally satisfying wins of the Mark Richt era.
Sadly some of the games on this list are but mere hints of what could have been. That is perhaps no more true of any game than Georgia’s 2014 evisceration of Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers. The Country Gentlemen came to Athens to open the season ranked #16 in the nation, powered by a roster full of young talent from across the southeast that chose Clemson solely for Dabo’s undeniable magnetism. The men from Lake Hartwell were a trendy pick to open the season with a mild upset of a Georgia team replacing the SEC’s all-time leading passer Aaron Murray with longtime backup Hutson Mason.
For a time it looked like they just might pull it off.
Clemson led 21-14 with a minute and a half until the intermission following a C.J Davidson touchdown run. Then this happened.
It was the beginning of the end for the Tigers. Gurley would finish the night with 293 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns, inserting himself squarely into the Heisman conversation. Freshman Nick Chubb would contribute 70 yards and a touchdown on 4 touches, including one physical run where he came out of his helmet and kept churning over defenders. It was the sort of thing literary types call “foreshadowing.”
The Country gentlemen would not score a single point in the second half, whereas the Red and Black ripped off touchdown runs of 18 (Gurley), 47 (Chubb), and finally 51 (Gurley) yards against a Clemson defense that looked physically demoralized by the end. To put it in technical terms, Dabo’s boys just decided they didn’t want no more.
Their offensive teammates weren’t much help. Clemson QB Cole Stoudt was repeatedly mugged by Leonard Floyd and the rest of the Bulldog pass rush and never had time to get the ball downfield after halftime. New UGA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt dialed up the pressure and grilled Stoudt like a skewer of fresh asparagus. While the visitors got some late spark with the insertion of freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson, this one was over well before the final horn. Your final score from Athens: Georgia 45, Clemson 21.
It was a truly glorious night. The Athenians showcased a depth of talent in the backfield that may not have been rivaled by any team since. Four UGA tailbacks (Gurley, Chubb, Keith Marshall, and Sony Michel) combined for 309 rushing yards on only 32 attempts. The Bulldogs looked for all the world like SEC title contenders and jumped ten spots to #6 in the AP poll.
And then . . . .after a bye week lost 38-35 at South Carolina. Five games into the season Gurley would be suspended for accepting payments in exchange for signing memorabilia, before tearing his ACL in his return against Auburn. The ‘Dawgs would stumble in losses both to Florida and Georgia Tech before righting the ship behind Chubb and getting to 10 wins in a Belk Bowl thrashing of Louisville.
2014 was a season that began with promise and ended with promise. In between it was one kick in the shins after another. But for one night in Athens Todd Gurley and his teammates looked like perhaps the best football team in the nation, and easily the most physically aggressive team in Athens in years. It was a lot of fun, unless you were Dabo Swinney. Until later . . .