I like defense.— Dawg Sports (@dawgsports) September 5, 2021
That was, as they say, a slobber knocker.
We probably should have expected a pair of defenses staffed by veteran football players to be ahead of a pair of offenses replacing and/or missing their key playmakers. But I don’t think anyone predicted Georgia and Clemson to play a 10-3 football game that looked more like the teams’ shared heyday in the early 80’s.
The UGA defense sacked DJ Uiagalelei 7 times, with 6 different Bulldogs getting in on the action. They surrendered a total of 2 net rushing yards. Dos. Deux. Zwei. 6 feet. 72 inches. That’s truly savage.
In total the defense allowed only 180 yards to a Clemson offense that many assumed would just pick up where it left off with the departures of Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne.
But DJ Uiagalelei was harassed from the first series on and didn’t look close to comfortable in the pocket until it was too late. Dan Lanning deserves a great deal of credit for calling an aggressive game that played to his team’s strength up front.
We wondered how the Red and Black secondary would hold up against Clemson’s deep bench of playmaking receivers. And when the Tigers could get the ball out they had success. Junior Joseph Ngata in particular surpasses his 2020 season total ( 83 yards) by snagging 6 catches for 110 yards. The Bulldogs committed a host of pass interference penalties and will have to clean that up going forward. But the new look secondary gave up only one pass of over 12 yards all night, in part because Uiagalelei rarely had more than 3 seconds to get the ball out.
It was arguably the most dominating defensive performance we’ve seen from a defense that’s often been dominant under Kirby Smart.
The Bulldog offense on the other hand could use some work. It was a balanced effort, with 135 yards through the air and 121 on the ground. But the ‘Dawgs were more effective in the ground than through the air, averaging a respectable 3.9 yards on 31 rushing attempts.
JT Daniels on the other hand was left throwing the ball to whoever happened to be able to shamble onto the field. That most often was freshman tight end Brock bowers, whose 6 catches for 43 yards led the Classic City Canines in both categories. Former walk-on Jaylen Johnson added a catch for 21 yards.
But Kearis Jackson was limited to punt return duties, and Arian Smith and Jermaine Burton combined for 3 catches and 17 yards. That’s just not enough explosion from guys who were supposed to be our explosive downfield threat. Sure, the Country Gentlemen fielded likely the best defensive front and secondary we’ll see all season. But there will come a time when we need to score more than 10 points to win this season, and I’d feel a lot better if I knew how that might happen.
I’m also still a little fuzzy on why Todd Monken didn’t do on Georgia’s penultimate offensive possession what he did on the last one. Georgia could possibly have made Clemson’s field goal drive their last possession with a solid, soul-crushing ground and pound drive with 9:08 left in the game. Instead Daniels three 3 quick passes and took all of 1:25 off the clock. Had the officials not frittered around for four solid minutes reviewing a possible running into the punter call, the UGA defense would have returned to the field gassed to face a newly confident Clemson offense. It just made no sense and I’m glad we didn’t have to pay for it.
But these are problems for another day. Tonight the Red and Black knocked off the #3 team in the country, staring down the Tigers in a game that could have gotten away on multiple occasions. It’s just a great night to be a Georgia Bulldog. Y’all play pretty and be nice to each other. And...