Georgia vs. South Carolina: A Complete Recap, Clowney’s Retirement and Brendan Douglas Free Throws
I already shared a few words on this game and Daniel Palmer crushed some immediate reactions, but unlike last year, this game is worth a whole lot more than one misspelled curse word. So I’m going to keep truckin’.
The crowd was absolutely a factor in this game, and rarely is that the case for Sanford Stadium. Georgia fed off the crowd for much of the second half as Todd Gurley and Aaron Murray repeatedly motioned to the stands for support. The same crowd seemed to take the life out of the Gamecocks. It would be hard to describe either team as “plagued” by penalties, but Georgia certainly got the better end of the stick with just 16 yards of infractions to South Carolina’s 38. Crowd-induced (I believe) penalties played a role in some of South Carolina’s shortcomings. For instance: on the game’s opening drive, South Carolina was hit for a Substitution Infraction and 3rd and 8 turned in 3rd and 13. The Gamecocks did not convert and were forced to settle for a field goal.
As I rewatched the game, it felt like I was watching a game at LSU or the Swamp. The crowd volume was noticeable on television in a way that was reminiscent of the first Black-out game against Auburn in 2007.
Murray Had a Day
One could easily point to Murray’s statistics or simply the fact that he got a win as indicators of the type of day he had. But there was much, much more to it than numbers and the final score. First and foremost, of the six incompletions Murray threw, four were dropped and one was thrown out of the back of the endzone and left Justin Scott-Wesley and Aaron Murray wanting (wrongfully so) a pass interference call. I’m not saying this to beat up on the receivers, because anytime six guys catch multiple passes, things went well. Rather, I want to make two points:
- Aaron Murray was absolutely ON. His passes were on target all day long.
- This still wasn’t an “everything went right” game for Murray. Again, he was hurt by some drops, especially on Georgia’s second drive of the game.
That second drive also saw Murray bobble a shotgun snap before regaining composure and hitting Michael Bennett on a four yard cross. It wasn’t good enough for a first down (the play came on third and goal from the 9), but it was the type of play that has handicapped the Dawgs in the past. If Murray loses that snap completely before recovering it in the backfield, the 22-yard field goal attempt could have been something in the 35-yard range. And, that could be a challenge for a backup kicker. If Murray had lost that snap altogether, it might have been a scoop and run by Jadeveon Clowney (think Melvin Ingram in 2011) or at least a turnover and momentum killer.
Instead, Murray bobbled the ball, held it and made a smart/safe play. Plays like that made the difference in this game.
Play-calling and Speed
Can we fire Bobo already? That guy is just the worst. 538 yards of offense and 41 points is just not enough. Holding the ball for almost 60% of the game is not enough. Touchdown drives of 65, 69, 75, 82 and 65 yards is not enough!
Above and beyond the obvious (Georgia ran the ball well, Todd Gurley is a beast, Aaron Murray balled out, Keith Marshall made plays, Justin Scott-Wesley is fast, etc.), I thought the pace of Georgia really stood out. Remember the play when Clowney got a hand on Murray as Murray launched a deep ball to Michael Bennett? The Dawgs went in to hyper-speed at that point. UGA hurried to the line and handed the ball to Gurley who ran to the three. A few plays later – and just a few seconds later – Arthur Lynch was celebrating a touchdown catch.
The same type of sequence happened anytime South Carolina made a big defensive play. The Clowney sack was immediately followed by a handoff to Keith Marshall who ran exactly to where Clowney had just come from. This did two things: capitalized on an overly-hungry Clowney and halted South Carolina’s momentum. Oh, also, Marshall picked up 16 yards to more than account for the sack yardage (10 yards).
Speaking of Clowney…One Last Time
I was going to write a post about this, but then I realized it would be counter-productive. Bottom line: I’m over Clowney. It’s not him, it’s me (or media types in general). A quick timeline of the last nine months of Clowney:
- January: the Hit
- January-August: There’s never been a player like Clowney ever in the history of the ultraverse.
- August 29: Clowney was tired/sick/whatever and sucked in game one.
- September 7: Clowney can maybe be schemed around, but let’s dog-pile him.
WAKE UP, PEOPLE! Jadeveon Clowney plays defensive end. He was never a reason for South Carolina to be a National Championship contender. Never! I was only half-kidding when I titled my South Carolina Gamecock 2013 Preview thusly: South Carolina Wins the SEC if Clowney Masters All 22 Positions. Click the link. That’s a real thing.
Here’s something else you can file under “real things:” when a team only has one star on either side of the ball, not only can opponents scheme around said player…but it’s not overwhelmingly difficult to do so. In June of this year, I pointed to the following reasons for a Clowney regression in 2013 (relative to the supernatural hype surrounding him):
- He was not statistically dominant on a consistent basis in 2012, why would he be in 2013 when he’s a more-known/advertised quantity?
- Along those lines of consistency, he takes plays off.
- He lost just about everyone around him on defense.
South Carolina fans pointed to a number of ways to dispute those theories (stats aren’t the measure of a DE – and I agree, he’s in the best shape of his life, this defense will be fine, etc.), but in some ways that coddling/obsessing dichotomy is hurting Clowney now. Yesterday, news broke that Clowney wants to be used differently on defense. That’s a great idea, but he’s still a defensive end, correct? And as Michael Felder of Bleacher Report puts it, knowing what his position does is something most fans don’t get. Maybe Clowney doesn’t get it either.
The problem with the South Carolina defense is not Jadeveon Clowney. The problem is the rest of the unit. Clowney is no longer a guy who can be “schemed around.” He’s now a guy who I believe can be exploited. Why? Because there is so little around him. South Carolina cannot stack the opposite side of the field, because the Gamecocks don’t have enough talent. South Carolina cannot counter Clowney in any way. So now, Clowney is their defense’s biggest weakness as he makes the direction of each play abundantly clear.
As it stands now, Clowney is not much more than a really scary compass that tells an opponent where to go on offense. Trust me, you don’t want to ignore the compass. But if you follow its needle, you’ll have a chance to be successful. And to be clear: I’m not blaming Clowney for this. I’m blaming South Carolina’s lack of additional talent. The Gamecocks lost more than 99% of their production from linebackers this year. That’s not a made up number used as hyperbole. It’s a real stat. He is a compass pointing to weakness on the opposite side of the field.
And for what it’s worth: I don’t subscribe to the “he’s really, really, really hard to scheme around” school of thought if he’s playing that compass role. On Saturday, the Georgia offense racked up over 500 yards, more than 40 points and did not turn the ball over. Did Georgia prepare for Clowney? Certainly. But he affected preparations more than he affected the game itself (which is a credit to Bobo & Co.). But the point is this: Georgia’s offense balled out of control against Clowney. Again, 538 yards of offense, 41 points and no turnovers. When was the last time the Bulldogs did that? It happened last year when Georgia stomped Vanderbilt 48-3. I bet Georgia “schemed” for that game too.
I’m retiring Clowney talk until the rest of the South Carolina defense improves enough to allow him to dominate.
Defense Makes Big Plays
Amarlo Herrera had a huge game – arguably the best of his seemingly endless career. Herrera recorded 12 tackles, 1 TFL and .5 sacks, but it was his forced fumble on a Connor Shaw run that might have been the night’s biggest play. I’ll take you back…the game is tied 24-24. South Carolina is driving. On 4th and 5, Shaw makes a patended Ugly-Shaw run passed the first down marker but refuses to slide (typical Connor Shaw move). Amarlo Herrera pops the ball out. Damian Swann falls on it at the Georgia 25. Georgia drives for a field goal to take a lead that will not be relinquished. Huge play.
And of course, the 4th and goal stand was significant. (This is me playing it off like it will happen all year.)
Bottom line: the defense made enough plays to let the offense do its thing. That’s all the Dawgs needed.
Brendan Douglas, the White Boy Free Throw Shooter
My role on my high school basketball team was never more appreciated than at the end of practice. After a long session of drills, scrimmaging, lifting weights and otherwise not having fun, the coach would always offer the following proposition: If somebody can make two free throws we can go home, if not we’re running suicides.
Step aside guys who actually get a lot of playing time, Andrew Hall’s got this. Swish. Swish. Go home.
For Brendan Douglas it’s more of a Boom. Boom. Go home. But the sentiment is still there. I can only hope that Douglas becomes the “closer” for the next few seasons before becoming the “man” – and he certainly showed that type of promise.
Five carries for 31 yards in clutch clock-eating, cock-defeating time is a heck of a debut.
That’s all I got/