Monday, September 9, 2013

Sakerlina recap - Clowney watches Gurley run...and run...and RUN!

As I recovered yesterday, I rewatched the game and drank a lot of water. I'm not as young as I used to be. But we beat South Carolina just like the good ol' days. So over celebrating is warranted and encouraged.

I'll be honest, driving home from Clemson last weekend I did not feel good about avoiding an 0-2 start to the season. I was probably in the majority there. But by Wednesday I felt differently about it. If our offensive line could hold their on and learn from the struggles against the Tigers, then we would have too many playmakers for the Gamecocks to keep up with when we had the ball. And that's basically how it played out.

Of course, with the added touch of imposing our will on them with a soul crushing, bone bashing final drive to drain the clock.

Stat of the game

The theme is always about team goals, but there's no question that Murray lifted a huge weight off his shoulders and exorcised some serious demons. As Blutarsky said, this wasn't against a suspect defense either. Just imagine what that passer rating would look like if there hadn't been a handful of drops.

Just an incredible game for Murray. Very happy for him. For a quarterback who has achieved so much to be as beleaguered in spite of it, this game (and specifically that throw to Scott-Wesley to help seal the deal) had to be especially sweet. Damn Good Dawg.

What went well
Todd Damn Gurley. He ran through people. He ran by people. He ran and he ran, yet never tapped his helmet. Unlike another Heisman contender that once saved the entire world by tackling a Michigan player. Gene Wojciechowski asked on Gameday how to stop Clowney. Evidently the answer is to have him put his helmet on and try and tackle Gurley. Simple.

Other than that and the the gaudy passing statistics, this game was won on the ground. Closing out the game with that merciless final drive was very tasty icing on what was a delicious cake. And I just love that we can bring in Brendan Douglas to help close things out while giving Gurley a rest. That was an extra fantastic "In your face Cocky! We're not done and you're not done taking it on the chin!" moment.

Spectacular crowd Saturday. The fans brought it and I really think the guys running the gameday sounds and sights are making improvements. The atmosphere was electric. After Scott-Wesley's touchdown my oldest screamed into my ear "DAD!!! WE'RE SOOOO BEATING THEM!!!" Without the intensity in the stands, moments like that never happen for parents because the kids don't have the wealth of experience to go on. And Saturday was one we'll all remember for some time.

The onside kick was brilliant and perfect in every way. It made me really happy. Like getting an Official Red Ryder carbine action 200 shot range model air rifle for Christmas happy.

Bobo's play calling clearly had South Carolina off balance for much of the night. So much so that their defensive coaches took out their frustrations on each other. It's one thing to have a fifth year senior under center and surrounded by heaps of talent at your disposal. But there were several times when it was just clear that Bobo was a couple strides ahead of his counterparts. The greatest example is the fullback flare on the last drive to get us off the goalline. We'd gone conservative the first two downs out of necessity, then Bobo gives them something they hadn't seen.

Quayvon doing Quayvon things. Richt has raved about his versatility. And he showed it all in this game. Blocked like grown man. Ran like a grown man. And made a huge catch and run mentioned previously.

The goal line stand was too big for words. Great play by Herrera to force the run back inside and wrap him up. Without that there stands a good chance we're singing a different tune this week.
(Jason Getz, AJC)

Penalties were not only reduced in number, but also didn't come at all those inopportune times. Five flags for 16 yards is nothing. Of course, the unsportsmanlike on the goal line stand was masked some because it only gave up mere inches, but for the most part this was a very disciplined effort. Very focused and businessman like effort.

We neutralized the best pass rusher in the nation. Clowney was a non-factor. Don't let ESPN or anyone else convince you otherwise. I don't care if his foot got stepped on, or if he had to force some chicken and pasta down pre-game. And although I thought Nessler and Blackledge (two of my favorites in a sea of inept broadcast teams) did a good job, they failed to mention how well the game plan and the offensive line did in making #7 turn in a sub-par performance. They sure pointed out at the beginning how Clowney had made Gates look bad for two years. They could've at least pointed out that Bobo and Friend and the entire protection team gave Murray time and the running backs plenty of holes.

Areas to improve
The defense is still growing up. I'll admit to moments of pretty intense frustration at missed assignments and the lack of adjustments. But after watching the tape it's clear that progress is being made. Brendan Langley was obviously picked on most of the evening. He (along with Matthews and Harvey-Clemons) had some poor angles and was late reacting to the receiver. But he had a pass breakup in the second half, and even the completions that were thrown on him later in the game were often just great plays made inspite of him being in position, like the one catch where the receiver leaped 30 feet in the air.

Again, I think Langley is going to be a star. And he grew up in this game. But he's still adjusting to the speed at this level as he's only been on campus a little more than a month. So although at times we made Connor Shaw look even better than he is, I really believe the cohesiveness and the level of play is going to quickly catch up to the talent and depth that this defense has. This is a big couple of weeks ahead of us.

We need a punt returner to step up in the next couple of weeks. If we can have a guy house it a time or two in practice, maybe it'll convince Richt to loosen up the reins some on punt returns and try and get some field position from this unit. We have guys that can help us here. Just a matter of having the right attitude and just going for it.

Some rest will lead into what I expect to be some intense practices. I'd be surprised if Richt doesn't have the team go full pads two more days this week. We'll be healthy for North Texas and really have three weeks to prepare for another intense SEC matchup with LSU.

Specifically, I'd like to see the defense start to gain an identity. When we reconvene at Sanford a week from Saturday I'd like to see the same intensity with a better grasp of assignments. I'm not normally a fan of bye weeks this early, but after watching these two brutal, physical games to start the season, it'll be good to have some time to get healthy and get even better.

And now it's late and I'm rehydrated. Plus Breaking Bad is about to start. Hit me with anything I missed in the comments.