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No. 5 Georgia’s defense dominates No. 3 Clemson

Caleb Browder, Photo Editor

No. 5 Georgia takes on No. 3 Clemson in Charlotte, North Carolina

On Saturday night, the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs defeated the No. 3 Clemson Tigers 10-3 in the opening week of the season. Both defenses shined, but from Clemson’s first drive, Georgia’s defense seemed to dominate the game and ended up holding Clemson to its lowest-scoring game under Head Coach Dabo Swinney.
Finishing the game with a mere 180 total yards on offense, Clemson’s offense was man-handled from the start. The Tigers started the game out with two three-and-outs, but the offensive troubles did not end there.
The turning point came with 2:38 remaining in the second quarter, when Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith picked off Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei for a 74-yard touchdown return, scoring the game’s only touchdown and giving Georgia a 7-0 lead.
Although the interception will be on Uiagalelei in the box score, Clemson receiver Justyn Ross, who was the targeted receiver on the play, may have been the one at fault. “It’s an option route, and he has an option there. He chose to run a slant. If you’re going to run the slant, you have to run it off the defender and you have to be falt,” said Swiney after the game.
Uiagalelei, who finished the game 19/37 with 178 yards and one interception, was sacked seven times and faced constant pressure throughout the game. The Bulldogs did bring blitzes at times, but often the pressure resulted from Georgia’s defensive tackles Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter pushing the interior of Clemson’s offensive line back.
The offensive line did not hold their own against Georgia’s star-studded front-seven, but Uiagalelei did seem to hold onto the ball too long at times and failed to change protections as well. Uiagalelei had only two starts coming into the game, so it is important to keep in mind that those pre-snap adjustments will come with more experience.
On the offensive line, Swinney said, “There’s no question we got to do a better job…but I’m not going to put my head down and write the season off because we lost 10-3 to a top-five team.”
Meanwhile, Georgia’s offense had similar struggles moving the ball against Clemson’s defense. Georgia finished the game with 256 total yards and was 7-15 on third down. The difference in the two’s offensive struggles came in the rushing game, where Georgia had 121 rushing yards to Clemson’s shockingly low two rushing yards.
There was a glimmer of hope for the Tigers in the fourth quarter. The offense drove down the field, setting up a 22-yard B.T. Potter field goal and bringing the game to a seven-point deficit. However, that field goal would be the first and only points Clemson scored, as Georgia’s defense held out and forced a turnover on downs for Clemson the following drive.
Both of these defenses appear to be some of the nation’s best, but Georgia’s had the edge on Saturday night. Now, the Tigers will look to bounce back next Saturday when they host South Carolina State in Memorial Stadium.

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