ATHENS -- It’s simple, really. When you have talent like Georgia has at running back, you don’t need Don Coryell’s passing-first playbook to know what to do on offense.
For all new quarterback Hutson Mason has to do is to turn around and slowly hand the ball off. It’s doubtful any of the running backs wearing red and black will not know what to do.
Saturday in Athens, it was a tale of two halves. The first half, Georgia and Clemson were tied at 21 and the Bulldogs ran the ball only 12 times for 45 yards. In the second half, Georgia ran it 29 times for 283 yards. The Bulldogs outscored Clemson 24-0 in the final 30 minutes to win 45-21.
Yeah, just run the football. Run it a lot.
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Center David Andrews admitted the team figured out at half what Clemson was doing on defense. Then Georgia made adjustments that made the difference in the second half.
“I think we probably ran six plays, the same six plays over and over, and they just kept working and working,” he said. “We just knew we could do it, and if we gave these backs space they could do something big.”
Georgia might have the early clubhouse leader for the Heisman Trophy in Todd Gurley, who was simply magnificent with 293 all-purpose yards. His 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown tied the game midway through the second quarter.
Gurley said Clemson gave him a present that every kick returner dreams about.
“A big hole in the middle of the field,” Gurley said. “We knew they had the middle open, and we saw it just from the two I didn’t get (earlier). So we knew if they gave us the middle again, it would be there.”
But it was his running out of the backfield that was even more impressive. Gurley had 198 yards on 15 carries and three touchdowns.
He’s quickly erasing any debate about who is the best running back in Athens since Herschel Walker graced Sanford Stadium more than 30 years ago.
Gurley was not alone. The freshmen everyone looked forward to seeing did not disappoint. Nick Chubb ran for 70 yards on four carries with a 47-yard touchdown, while Sony Michel had 33 yards on six carries.
“It stunned me a little bit just how mature they looked when they were running the ball,” wide receiver Michael Bennett said. “Going from high school defenses to college defenses is a whole different deal. But it didn’t look like they stopped at all. They were just running through kids and kept their feet moving and just got yards after contact. It was amazing.”
Said Andrews, “Man, they’re special. I knew they were going to be special.”
What was the impact of all those rushes in the second half? Well, Georgia was able to keep its defense fresh, and it showed. Clemson managed only 15 yards offense in the second half.
Plus, now moving forward, teams are going to have to focus on the running game, which may make things interesting for Mason and the passing attack.
“I’m very excited that they did so well because defenses are going to start keying in on them,” said Bennett, who caught five passes for 60 yards. “It’s going to open up myself and Chris (Conley) and all the other receivers for deep plays. It’s going to be a great deal for us.”
There is no mystery now as to what Georgia has to do to win. They need to line it up and simply say, “Stop us if you can.” Chances are the opponents will have no answer for a group of running backs who might be the best group Georgia has had in a long time.
“It’s indescribable blocking for those four or five guys,” Andrews said. “We knew if did our job and gave them a hole, it would be ‘Katy bar the door.’ All of them just need a little crease. They’re physical. They’re strong. They’re hard to bring down. It’s special.”
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