CLEMSON — South Carolina rested comfortably while two future opponents battled each other Saturday. The No. 6 Gamecocks doubtless took the opportunity to do some scouting, which could come in handy just six days.
What USC might have seen from Georgia, its next opponent, on Saturday:
The Bulldogs mixed and matched to different results. They tried to play up-tempo to match Clemsons attack, they tried to sit back and grind clock (with middling results). They played the game without flanker Malcolm Mitchell, their hottest receiver to end last year, and lost dynamic tailback Todd Gurley for most of the first half, immediately after he scorched the Tigers defense for a 75-yard touchdown run.
Where it worked was when Georgia could move Aaron Murray around in the pocket, since Clemsons secondary was forced to keep an eye on him and on his receivers, who always seemed to be open. Gurley running the toss-sweep was a huge play. Split end Michael Bennett, who was Georgias leading receiver last year before tearing his ACL, channeled Jay Novacek with his ability to get in position for a 10-yard gain.
It also worked when the Bulldogs got the ball to fullback Quayvon Hicks. The 257-yard bruiser ran for 37 yards on a handoff up the gut, plunged for a 1-yard touchdown and rumbled for a long completion on a swing pass, skipping over a diving defender.
Where it didnt work was when Georgia tried to pound the ball up the gut. That was because of Keith Marshall being slow to take the handoff and Clemson locking in on him right away. It also didnt work when Murray tried to let a play develop downfield. His left tackle allowed constant pressure. Murrays line could have been sued for non-support.
Murray was not sharp. Even when his receivers were wide open, he threw high and threw low, costing them potential yards. He fumbled to give Clemson room to score the tying TD, went three-and-out on the next drive, got a gift when Clemson fumbled the punt, then threw a pass right to Clemsons Corey Crawford in the middle of the field. For a guy such as Jadeveon Clowney, who has battered Murray for a good portion of his career highlights, that has to seem like a blinking light of opportunity.
The Bulldogs were twice whistled for receivers committing chop blocks downfield and the play call was a run.
Georgia learned the hard way not to try and tackle Sammy Watkins high. He caught a pass in one-on-one coverage, bounced away from someone who wanted him around the hips and was off on a 77-yard scoring jaunt.
Where it worked was when Georgia stayed home and spied on Tajh Boyd. They hit him when he ran, even if it was for a first down, and shadowed him when he rolled out. After his TD, they locked in on Watkins and began scoping the bubble screens that had led to gains in the first half.
Where it didnt work was when the Bulldogs got caught trying to push running receivers out of bounds on the sideline routes, and tiring themselves out. Not finishing tackles and getting juked by Rod McDowell also played key roles in Clemsons lead-taking touchdown drive in the early third quarter. Georgia was so guessed out and gassed out that Boyd sent Zac Brooks on the fly route right after consecutive sideline passes, and dropped the ball right in his hands. If Boyds receivers hadnt dropped a few more passes that hit them in the hands, the game would have quickly gotten out of hand.
Chasing Boyd in the pocket also didnt work. He avoided defenders at the last second, then usually hit a pass. There wasnt much of a happy medium hang back and get thrown over, or pursue and get thrown past.
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