CLEMSON, S.C. - Seven observations or notes as No. 5 Georgia tied with No. 8 Clemson at halftime, 21-21
1. Boy, does the Malcolm Mitchell injury cast a pall. Yes, receiver is the team's deepest position, but Mitchell is perhaps as important to the offense - nay the team - as anybody not named Aaron Murray or Todd Gurley. And one could argue he's as important as Gurley. Mitchell is a dynamic playmaker who gives the offense another dimension, and his loss would be huge for the offense going forward. The team can hope and pray it's not a serious injury, but the signs weren't good.
2. Georgia would be in control of this game if not for turnovers. Murray's fumble (which can be heavily blamed on his line) gave Clemson its game-tying score. And after Georgia was given its own gift, after Sammy Watkins muffed a punt at Clemson's 31, Murray promptly gave it back with a bad interception. There was also the turnover that wasn't: Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera couldn't haul in an interception at midfield, which at a minimum would have been good field position, but could have been a pick-six.
3. Georgia's defense has played very well, all things considered. It has forced punts on five possessions, including a three-and-out to start the game. The second and third drives were obviously pretty bad, about what was expected of the young defense. And it's been young guys: I counted six freshmen who played early: Brendan Langley, Tray Matthews, Reggie Carter, Leonard Floyd and John Taylor. In fact Langley, Matthews and Floyd all started, becoming the first Georgia true freshmen to start the opener on defense since 2002. (That was Kendric Golston.) Also, the defense is subbing a lot, as promised. And the curveball is Leonard Floyd playing at the star position. Todd Grantham told me a couple weeks ago that wasn't in the works, but either Grantham changed his mind, or he was hiding something. Floyd, by the way, has not left the field much.
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4. Murray is having a rough game. (Cue up the big game talk.) He's had some good throws, but he's also had some doozies. The worst, obviously, was the interception late in the half, on first down right after Georgia got the ball at Clemson's 30. There was good blocking, Murray just tried to fit in a pass downfield and it was easily picked off. Murray also struggled at the outset, underthrowing his first two passes. There were a couple completions that would have gone for longer yardage if Mitchell had thrown it better. .. All this said, Murray has had some rough starts and recovered well: Missouri and Florida last year come to mind.
5. I don't like the way Georgia's offensive line is playing. It has given up a couple sacks, the second of which resulted in a fumble and turnover deep in its own end. Clemson capitalized by tying the game. It looks a lot like last year's line, which benefited from some very good skill position talent: Gurley's 75-yard run was a toss sweep to the right, and the second touchdown was set up by Murray scrambling out of the pocket and finding Rantavious Wooten for a long completion. The best blocker on the offense may have been fullback Quayvon Hicks, who sprung a key block for that Gurley touchdown.
6. Speaking of Hicks, he's having quite a game. He scored on a 1-yard run, but his bigger run was a 37-yarder up the middle after a Clemson punt had pinned Georgia at its own 3. You're seeing why Hicks has really separated himself from last year's starter, Merritt Hall. And if Mitchell is out for awhile, then Georgia will be tempted into going I-formation more, thus increasing Hicks' role.
7. Justin Scott-Wesley is also having quite a game. After a bad throw by Murray, Scott-Wesley still grabbed it, got balanced, and pushed for the first down. I won't go so far as to say he can replace Mitchell, but if he keeps playing like this he could soften the blow.
Final thought (OK I'm cheating): This game clearly can go either way, but if Murray and the offensive line can firm things up, the Bulldogs can pull away. I think Murray will be better in the second half. The line? Who knows.