Morning after: Oh, how things change

semerson@macon.comSeptember 8, 2013 


Georgia beat South Carolina in their first SEC contest, 41-30.


Seven in-depth thoughts and then some quick-hitters after Georgia's season-redeeming victory over South Carolina:

1. How much of a killing did Vegas make on this game? When Georgia started out as a five-to-six point favorite, depending on the sports book, it was a major surprise to a lot of people, and apparently so many people rushed to bet on South Carolina that the line ended up around three by game time. And then Georgia covered the original spread by five.

2. Todd Grantham was pretty chesty afterwards for a guy whose defense just gave up 454 yards and 30 points, and only forced two punts. He said his defense was more mentally tough than South Carolina in this game, and then said this about the Gamecocks' play calls on the goal-line stand: "If it's fourth and a yard-and-a-half and they choose to put the ball on the perimeter like that, then I'll take that. ... I'll take that all day." By contrast, Mike Bobo uncharacteristically ducked the media after his offense had pretty much a perfect game. So why was Grantham so brash? Partly, that's just who he is. But it also may go back to the 2010 postgame comments by Steve Spurrier, who bragged about the zone-read run he kept calling, and quipped that they didn't have that in the NFL, where Grantham had just been. Grantham quipped back that Spurrier must be jealous because of his lack of success in the NFL. But he had to wait three more years to dig back at Spurrier after a win, and didn't pass it up.

3. Georgia had 536 total yards, four less than at Clemson, and also averaged slightly less yards per play (7.1 vs. 7.8). The difference is a lack of turnovers (zero this time, two at Clemson), a bit better time of possession (35:02 this time, 32:18 at Clemson), way less penalties (16 penalty yards for Georgia, not all of it offense, vs. 84 at Clemson), and two less sacks.

4. Considering no Malcolm Mitchell, no Jay Rome, and the looming presence of Jadeveon Clowney, this had to be Aaron Murray's best game, start-to-finish. Did he have a bad pass? It's hard to remember one. There were only six incompletions, and some of those were drops. It was the opposite of last week, when Murray was helped by receivers bailing him out on some fluttering passes or underthrows. And in the absence of Mitchell and Rome, Murray continues to make do, with walk-on Rhett McGowan making some catches, and Justin Scott-Wesley had a Mitchell-like game. There's a lot of credit to the system, Tony Ball and recruiting, but it's also time to say Murray is turning a lot of guys into good receivers.

5. The two main concerns for Georgia going into this game, at least in my mind, were overall line play and containing Connor Shaw. The latter was a major problem until later in the game, but was solved by improved run defense. South Carolina's Mike Davis had the 75-yard run, but his other six second-half carries only netted 12 yards. As Richt pointed out, Georgia's offense also helped by continuing to score and taking the Gamecocks' out of their ideal gameplan. In any case, Georgia's outside backers were able to key more on Shaw on the perimeter, and the quarterback was held to 27 rushing yards in the second half. As for Georgia's offensive line, it was simply amazing how much better it looked, not just in terms of containing Clowney - that was chiefly due to rolling Murray out and having Murray make quick reads. But when Georgia ran the ball up the middle there was a push forward that was missing in the Clemson game. It was a big reason South Carolina's defense wore down.

6. One thing about the Georgia defensive staff is that it sticks with players even when they struggle. Brendan Langley was burned several times and just looked overmatched, as well as completely oblivious on Davis' 75-yard run. But the freshman stayed out there despite Sheldon Dawson, the expected starter entering the preseason, being available. The same went for junior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson, who had a rough go of it most of the game.

7. There was a lot of talk afterwards (as in media asking Richt and Georgia players) about the team's increased tempo. But Richt pointed out, accurately, that the offense has been geared this way for a couple years now. The noticeable difference is they're actually getting plays off quickly now. That also seemed an increased emphasis on Saturday, with less instances of "hurry up and wait."

Lightning round:

- Georgia "only" ranks 20th in the nation in total offense with 538 yards per game. But that's after playing two top-10 teams.

- Todd Gurley now has run for at least 100 yards in 11 of 16 games. He ranks ninth nationally at 143 yards per game, but again, consider that's after games against two top-10 teams.

- Clowney on Murray: "Aaron played a pretty good game today. He threw it quick and ran it away from me the whole game. Their game plan worked out for them today."

- Spurrier said it was "obvious" Georgia was the stronger team on Saturday: "It was a good tail-kicking and I have to give Georgia credit. They ran it right down their throat. Vince Dooley probably has a smile on his face with the way they played tonight."

- Jordan Jenkins has been held without a sack through two games, but you have to consider the competition, and the fact he's faced two quarterbacks who can scramble. Georgia's three sacks this season have been credited to the defensive line, with inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera getting a half-sack on Saturday.

- Josh Harvey-Clemons was relatively quiet, recording just two solo tackles (and three assists) and recovering Shaw's fumble. But it was his first game back, and his first real game in college getting extensive action.

- Keith Marshall didn't seem to be seriously hurt (word is he bruised his knee), but if he's still slowed after the bye week, Brendan Douglas showed he could be an effective runner against North Texas if the team wants to take it easy on Gurley. And don't forget about J.J. Green or even A.J. Turman, if he's healthy enough to play.

- Kenarious Gates' ankle injury is the one worth watching. We'll get an update on Sunday evening from Richt. Mark Beard did do an effective job when he replaced Gates late in the game.

- Ray Drew deserves a mention. He got some pressures on Shaw, and had a couple solo tackles. He may not live up to the recruiting five-star hype, but the first few games he's looked like a solid contributor.

- Sterling Bailey deserves even more of a mention. One sack, 10 tackles ... not too shabby.

- Finally, how about Patrick Beless? You have to wonder if this is giving Richt something to think about.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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