Pin Georgia’s close loss to Clemson directly on the offensive line

A poor performance by Georgia's offensive line appeared to affect the play of QB Aaron Murray against Clemson. (Jason Getz / AJC)

A poor performance by Georgia's offensive line appeared to affect the play of QB Aaron Murray against Clemson. (Jason Getz / AJC)

One of the few positives that can be taken out of Saturday night’s 38-35 loss at Death Valley is the fact that Georgia had 545 yards of offense and lost to Clemson by only 3 points despite a dismal performance by the Bulldogs’ veteran offensive line.

After Clemson’s defense adjusted to a more aggressive, blitzing style of play in the wake of the Dogs’ early success, the OL was completely unable to handle the Tigers’ speed off the edge, resulting in a breakdown of protection for Aaron Murray.

(Speaking of the Tigers’ adjustments, Clemson’s staff clearly outcoached Georgia’s much of the evening, making much more aggressive calls on both sides of the ball, with the exception of the Dogs’ last scoring drive, when the team in orange strangely sat back in prevent mode, allowing Murray to move Georgia 56 yards in 1:06 to pull within 3. Had the onside kick worked — always a longshot — we probably would be talking about the Dogs’ miracle comeback.)

But back to the OL. In addition to doing a poor job handling Clemson’s pressure, they also opened few holes for the running backs — which makes the 154 yards a dinged-up Todd Gurley racked up on 12 carries (including a 75-yard touchdown run) even more impressive. Gurley was obviously the best player on the field Saturday night.

And to top off their awful performance, offensive linemen made several poorly timed miscues (several of them by junior center David Andrews) that killed Bulldog drives.

Georgia returned all its OL starters from last year and came out of the preseason boasting more depth than it’s had at those positions in quite a while, but unfortunately just because you’re experienced doesn’t mean you’re good.

Murray statistically ended up with a decent night passing, completing 20 of 29 for 323 yards, thanks in great part to some fine catches made by Justin Scott-Wesley, Michael Bennett and Rantavious Wooten, and in spite of the fragile Malcolm Mitchell leaving the game early with yet another injury. But Murray wasn’t that sharp overall, having a definitely subpar second and third quarter, as he often has in the past when he has reason not to trust his OL. In addition to being sacked four times, he had a fumble and an interception.

Yes, there also was a key special teams failure, with a botched snap making it impossible for the Dogs to tie the game up at 31, but, again, that followed a drive in which Georgia had first-and-goal just outside the 5-yard line and yet couldn’t punch the ball in with three running plays due to both the poor blocking by the offensive line and some strangely conservative playcalling by Mike Bobo.

The defense, fielding a bunch of inexperienced players and shorthanded because of a suspension and injuries, played about as well as could be expected. There were missed tackles, and they seemed to wear down against the run in the fourth quarter (a familiar trend held over from last season), but they weren’t the reason Georgia lost the game.

So back to what positives we can take from this game: Well, it was nonconference, so all of Georgia’s goals — the SEC East, the SEC Championship and a possible berth in the BCS title game — remain still within their grasp. And this wasn’t a loss to be ashamed of. Clemson is a legitimate Top 10 team and probably will win at least 11 games this season. The Dogs don’t deserve to fall out of the Top 10 as a result of this loss.

Also, fullback Quayvon Hicks had a key run to get a Georgia drive in gear and had a long pass reception in another. He’s going to be a great player.

But on the downside, considering how poorly the OL played in the spring game, the problems there don’t appear to be a one-night aberration. Throw in the fact that the Bulldogs left the field at Memorial Stadium looking kind of battered, and it’s more than a little scary that Jadeveon Clowney and the South Carolina Gamecocks will be coming to Athens next week (on two more days rest than the Bulldogs will get).

Those are my early thoughts. Feel free to share your views of Georgia’s opening-game loss. But keep it clean and civil.

Got something you want to discuss concerning the upcoming football season or UGA athletics? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

529 comments Add your comment

TallyDawg

September 1st, 2013
12:20 am

I think the elephant in the room missing in yours and Seth Emerson’s commentary is the return of the penalty demons. Those chop block calls were KILLER. One DPI was tickytack as all hell, but man. The defense just saw the best offense they will see all season. You’re on the money on the O-line. Clowney and company is going to have a field day.

Travis

September 1st, 2013
12:21 am

first.

dawgs will be back.

Michael G.

September 1st, 2013
12:28 am

While the preseason offered such promise, reality now sets in that Aaron Murray and co. just can’t win against top 10 teams. And with 2 of them coming to Athens in the next 3 games, a 1-3 start looks very likely.

Politiconupe

September 1st, 2013
12:32 am

How do you start the first half with a delay of game? How do you not keep track of the playclock and have to blow timeouts? Why after a toss sweep gets you a 75 yard touchdown you not not run another toss sweep until the fourth quarater? Why all the runs up the middle? The defense is what we thought they would be. The offense was not.

art edmonds

September 1st, 2013
12:36 am

Why didn’t the preacher richt call time out when on 3rd and long that reception was incomplete and out of bounds…thats why clemson ran a quick play…

art edmonds

September 1st, 2013
12:37 am

also, this is just another Murray game of him getting pressure and panicking and looking at the rush. I would have pulled him a let him watch a series or two.

SC Dog fan

September 1st, 2013
12:46 am

Spot on, Mr. King. I really thought that O line would be our greatest strength this year, with so much talent and experience. I never expected it to be our downfall. And the trend was definitely toward more effective adjustments from the Clemson coaching staff as the game went on. Crap.

Shut up!

September 1st, 2013
12:51 am

Go home, Art, you’re drunk! You have no clue about football! This was an O-Line problem. Also, “preacher” Richt is 10X’s the man you’ll ever be.

stendec

September 1st, 2013
12:53 am

Never blame Aaron Hurry huh Bill? What a crock. Most overrated joke of a QB in football. Time that stats DO lie! :(

SC Dog fan

September 1st, 2013
12:57 am

But despite everything, hell yes Quayvon Hicks!

Chris

September 1st, 2013
1:09 am

Murray now 3-12 in his career against teams that finish the season in the top 25 in the nation (if Clemson does this year)…that’s on Murray…and that’s pathetic. Agree with earlier poster, quit blaming everyone else…it’s time we start putting some blame on Murray and his lack of ability in big games.

Hairy Dawg

September 1st, 2013
1:26 am

Our offensive line looked pretty good for most of the game. Bobo and Richt got out-coached in the second quarter. You don’t put up 545 yards if your O-line is doing a bad job. That being said, the usual big game penalties, the usual Aaron Murray big game fumble deep in our territory, the usual Aaron Murray big game brain-fart INT, and a special teams miscue all added up to the loss. We all knew this game would be a shootout since the beginning of spring practice. The team that blinked the most would lose. Once again, our Mark Richt-led Dawgs blinked. I don’t know how that gets fixed.

classic Richt Murray

September 1st, 2013
1:41 am

Does anything about the game shock anyone?
The offensive line didn’t look great last year, didn’t look good this year.
Gurley’s talent is incredible… But I don’t see great Bobo coaching
Grantham’s D never does well with mobile QBs … Always looks to hit rather than wrap up
Murray , you don’t want to beat up a college kid, but what’s wrong with his choking at times?
And as I say every time:
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME ANYBODY SAID “RICHT OUTCOACHED THEM” ????

Been a while since I’ve thought it

stendec

September 1st, 2013
2:46 am

Saint Mark could not outcoach the guy who calls the shots for my local Pop Warner League team on a parttime basis! The guy is a loser. Forget the record. Most of those wins came against academies, junior colleges and girl schools! Going to be a LOOOOOOONG year. No wonder Russ cannot stay awake! :)

Mike Franklin

September 1st, 2013
3:32 am

Just like Boise State. We lose every time Nike gets to change our uniform.

southside dawg

September 1st, 2013
4:58 am

How do you stop the D from cheating up and shooting blitzs? screen passes, flat passes, quick downs and outs. I did not see anything but BoBo trying to run into the teeth of the D in the between the tackles. In my opinion the O game plan looked like it was done on the fly. If a D as average as Clemson can make a “national championship” calibre O line look like 1st year freshmen and JC transfers, this year will have the dawgs bound for Shreveport.

ZinoDawg

September 1st, 2013
5:28 am

O Line looked terrible. Either Clemson is great on D or we’re in big trouble.

willard

September 1st, 2013
5:34 am

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.

- Richt cant win the big games – PERIOD
- Richt was “teaching his kicker a lesson” by suspending him for the game. great lesson, idiot.
- If Richt is SOOOO smart and was the genius on the FSU teams in the 90’s, wouldn’t he call the offense? the answer is he WASNT. He was lucky enough to stand on the sideline just like fat Charlie Weis got credit for the Patriots offense. Richt is typical preacherman. keeps taking the congregation’s money but doesn’t actually work. and of course the church (Uga fans) prefer that sweetheart of a man to REAL winners like spurrier and saban.

Kyle in Alabama

September 1st, 2013
6:03 am

Not sure some of you watched the same game I did.

Bill is right:

The blame goes to the O-line. Yes Murray had a rough 2nd qtr, but Tom Brady would have looked just as bad with UGA’s o-line. I was pleasantly surprised with the defense, they certainly gave us a chance in the game, which is all you can ask of a young unit.

I was “ok” with Bobo’s play calling for the majority of the game aside from that 1st & goal. We went to the well too many times with that FB handoff, would have been a great opportunity to fake the FB handoff and toss the ball to the TE.

I swear some of you have a personal vendetta against A. Murray and M. Bobo. There is no denying that UGA’s offense under Bobo has been better than at any time in recent UGA history. There are some questionable play calls, but for the most part he’s been excellent the past few years. Just compare the offense to when Richt was calling the plays, doesn’t even compare. Go back and compare it to when Neil Callaway was the OC as well. Bobo is a very under appreciated asset at UGA.

Murray’s been up&down, but to me this was one of his “up” games. When he had time to throw he looked good and made good decisions.

Go Dawgs!

AtlG8t0r

September 1st, 2013
6:28 am

FACT: No SEC team has lost its opener then gone on to win the SEC Championship. (This includes UGA’s previous wet-the-bed opener against Boise State in 2011.) Another Mark Richt gift to the most coaching-tolerant fan base in all of college football. When are you head cases going to realize your head coach is a chronic, unrepentant under-achiever?

Jabberwock

September 1st, 2013
6:39 am

I still say that if Merritt Hall doesn’t miss his block, Hicks scores on 3rd and goal. People want to blame Murray, but when he has protection he is one heck of a Quarterback. Gurley is a beast, as is Marshall, and the OL looked horrible on the edge most of the night, and confused in the 2nd-3rd quarters (when defenses adjust to your game plan). The refusal by Coach Bobo to change his calls from “pound the stacked middle” to “quick throws to the edge” is nothing new. I wonder if the plan to stop Clowney will consist of Gates or Houston one-on-one.

The D looked talented, but inexperienced, like it was assumed they would be. I WAS happy to see that they seemed to all run the SAME play at the same time. In recent memory, it was so aggravating to see defender racing around just prior to the snap wondering what they were supposed to be doing.

**

September 1st, 2013
6:41 am

chop blocks? bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

OldDawg

September 1st, 2013
6:43 am

Last year it was the over rated defense that underperformed. Last night it was the over rated O-line. Dawgs fail once again in the national spotlight. It’s time to accept that UGA has a good regional program, but it’s nowhere close to the elite programs in the SEC that have won recent NCs. Would you want Georgia in the NC game representing the SEC’s continuing national dominance? We’re not that team.

Richard

September 1st, 2013
6:44 am

Richt was again, unquestionably, out coached. Just remember how crisp and creative the Clemson play calling was compared to BoBo’s. I wish I would have counted the off guard/off tackle plays that just were abject failures.
Especially the three dive plays when we had first and goal at the five– that was a killer and there is little excuse for no points when you are that close.
The penalties we all know and detest were , again, prevalent, Mitchell hurts his knee while celebrating, we have to call aTO after a kickoff…it is big game déjà vu and know matter what anybody says UGA and Murray have not/do not win big games.
The left tackle play was so poor that it does not leave much cause for optimism next week and USC has a pretty good offense.
Another 9-3 season looms and , oh boy, an Orlando bowl game!

Mississippi Dawg

September 1st, 2013
6:58 am

I do not have anything against Bobo. But at 54 years old and a life long Dawg fan I have resolved myself to fact that as long as he is our OC, we will always be just a good team. Hoping for a 12 and 1 season, but looking like 9 and 4.

Go Dawgs!

Watsonone

September 1st, 2013
7:05 am

My assessment exactly. I was blown away by how poorly this highly touted offensive line played. I expected the young and short-handed defense to have some problems but the mistakes by the o-line just killed the Dawgs.The off guard/tackle plays would have worked if we had had some blocking. The three running plays from the five – what can I say? The defense will improve with experience.

General Ledger

September 1st, 2013
7:09 am

Agreed. It took Bobo far tootling to adjust. Not feeling very good for USC or Lsu.

PalmettoState

September 1st, 2013
7:18 am

Simply put – GA finds itself unrealistically ranked early in the season and unable to get the W when they’re in the national spotlight.

Murray is terrible with peripheal vision / sensing the pressure — there’s no way around that. Yes the O line has no excuses for getting punked by an ACC defense — however the game was STILL there for the taking if Murray ever could have the “win any way” mentality that great team leaders do.

Richt / Bobo were outcoached by a Head Cheerleader – Dabo….. That’s not good either.

GA will lose to SC, LSU, FL and Vandy. Yes, Vandy will be final nail in the Mark Richt coffin this year.

gsuga

September 1st, 2013
7:24 am

No one has mentioned the block Hicks threw on Gurley TD. He took out two players to spring the play. But Bobo called that play ONLY TWO TIMES ALL NIGHT. Georgia was not as prepared for that game as Clemson was. Call it experience or lack of it. They were not ready for several parts of the game. Especially the coaches.

Dawg

September 1st, 2013
7:28 am

Eventually vs GA the defenses will pick up on the tendencies of our offense and make the offensive line look bad when the defense knows what the plays will be. There has to be a book on Bobo’s play calling out of certain sets in certain parts of the field that every good team shares….Not having good special teams misses a chance to have positive plays in that field of the game. Poor Coaching. These celebrations are also killers. Mitchell lost for who knows how long because of the celebration after Gurley’s td. Dumb

John

September 1st, 2013
7:29 am

We’re now entering my 5th year saying this:

Fire Mark Richt.

Hmmmmmm

September 1st, 2013
7:34 am

the offensive line…. This article proves that you know NOTHING about football… Try blaming this on the Defense… Period! But hey, you are a Georgia fan! lol…

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 1st, 2013
7:35 am

Uninspired Football
Turnovers
Penalties
Stuck on the same plays that were not working
Losing to another ranked opponent (only 5 victories vs teams that finished in the top 25 since 2008)
One side of the football team that should have been good under performs (last year the defense; this year the offense)

Has anything changed?

Michael

September 1st, 2013
7:35 am

Once again a Superior Ga. team loses because Coaches and Players not ready for the season opener against a real opponent ..It’s becoming a reoccurring theme. It is just a game and Ga. will bounce back strong hopefully. However just for Chit’s and Giggles why not come out ready to play a top 10 opponent just one season…:)

MoreOfTheSame

September 1st, 2013
7:36 am

Richt is a good coach IMO, they just need to play more ranked teams on a regular basis. You can’t go for 2 or 3 years beating up on cupcake teams every week and then suddenly play well when you play a ranked opponent.

Hmmmmmm

September 1st, 2013
7:38 am

@Bill

35 points should be enough to win any football game! and all you idiots blaming Bobo… What a JOKE!

Jim

September 1st, 2013
7:40 am

Same ole “THUGA.” Can’t win the big game. This is a program that consisently ranks in the top ten nationally in recruiting, but they are an underachieving bunch for sure…and guess who’s coming to town looking for four in a row? If Spurrier had the talent THUGA has each year, he would rival Saban.

CHDawg

September 1st, 2013
7:40 am

I agree with Bill! However, a lot of our O line problem was play calling. Our O line played well for much of the night, but they can’t just play well; they have to be the leaders and actually control the game. They are the only way we will make it back to the top ten. They have to be great, because our D is just too young. 2 true freshman, a walkon and a guy Saban constantly attacked and exploited (he gave up the longest play last night, too), and that is what our secondary looked like, unfortunately. A few years ago (with Stafford/Moreno), Gary Danielson went on and on with the way to beat UGA–load the box with 9 defenders and blitz and stunt. CMB still hasn’t figured out a way to counter that. It makes the O line’s job a lot harder when the OC allows other teams to do this. The screen would have gone for a mile. We only tried one. Few quick throws, bubble screens, few rollouts and misdirection rollouts (they worked well when tried). We need plays that quickly attack and overload other parts of the field–look at our TN tape from last year, when we actually did that! I just don’t see why our coaches can’t see this.

Mariposa II

September 1st, 2013
7:44 am

Once again, buh bye to the dwags!

SimpleDawg

September 1st, 2013
7:46 am

Early in the game Murray was off target a lot….throwing balls in the dirt. Kenarious Gates is going to get Murray killed against Clowney and Company…. The dreaded 0-2 start is looming on the horizon.

The ISO handoffs looked so slow that no one could hold a block that long. I don’t know what the difference was, but most of the running plays just looked awkward. And Marshall is no Gurley.

All of that preseason excitement has waned…. So much for a Glory Year.

RNB

September 1st, 2013
7:48 am

Same old Georgia. Can’t win the big game. I have been saying this for years. We need a big game coach!!! I am sorry but Mark Richt really don’t act like he cares anymore.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 1st, 2013
7:49 am

Its a good thing we continue to extend contracts around here

I wouldnt want to beat any ranked teams; it might hurt their self-esteem

Redfern on Capella V

September 1st, 2013
7:51 am

It’s real simple, folks: Saint Mark is not an FBS coach. Maybe he could win big in a much lower division, but never in the big boys league. It’s time to run the guy out of Athens on a rail.

In other words, FIRE MARK RICHT NOW!!!

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 1st, 2013
7:52 am

I cant wait for all the kool-aid drinkers on here to give us a positive spin on how the program is in great shape

Jeffro Bodeen

September 1st, 2013
7:54 am

Kolton Houston hasn’t played in 4 years, and it showed last night!

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 1st, 2013
7:55 am

Oh and no sense of urgency when being down in the game hey lets run the ball up the middle for no gain while the clock continues to count down

PigIron

September 1st, 2013
7:59 am

Clemson has a pretty good football team.

The bright side?

It’s not a conference game.

Aaron Murray still has great stats.

Mark Richt can lose 3 games this year and still wind up with a 77% win percentage.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 1st, 2013
7:59 am

Inside the 10 yrd line but hey lets run up the middle for nothing

guess what conservative play calling cost us the game again

Gutrake

September 1st, 2013
8:01 am

I love Murray as if he were my own puppy and he has worked hard for UGA. But I am looking forward to his eligibility expiring. I can look in his eyes and see that he gets rattled in these games. I WANT A WINNER at quarterback, not a statistic builder…

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 1st, 2013
8:02 am

PigIron

Im glad a wonderful winning percentage against no one has become Georgia football