Georgia's defense dominates Clemson in sack fest
Georgia’s defensive front dominated Clemson in a 10-3 victory, which was a slobber-knocker of a fight from kickoff to the final play of the game.
Some would say it was similar to the 2012 BCS National Championship game between Alabama and LSU when Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was the defensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa under Nick Saban.
However, the sixth-year head coach wouldn’t seem to agree.
“I enjoy winning, people have got me mistaken,” Smart said after the game. “That game tonight was nothing like that game. They (Clemson) were in two-back ISO, hitting with linebackers. I mean, that was a spread, throw-it-out, motion, dink, throw a flare route type of game. When I coached in the Alabama-LSU game, it was head-butting time. Now, that was not that type of game tonight. The score turned out that way, but there were two elite defenses on the field going at it.”
Georgia had seven total sacks from six different players. Junior linebacker Nakobe Dean led the Bulldogs with two sacks. Adam Anderson, Jordan Davis, Travon Walker, Nolan Smith and Jalen Carter were the other Bulldogs that collected a hit in the backfield on Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei. The seven sack performance by the Georgia defense marked one shy of the school record for sacks in a game.
Dean said after the game that this matchup has been on the team’s mind since the end of last season.
“We put everything into this game,” Dean said. “All of the skull sessions in the offseason seemed to pay off. It just speaks to the type of team we have and the work we put in. We are going to go back and correct what we need to fix. Now, it’s just on to the next opponent.”
Georgia held Clemson to 180 yards of total offense with most of them coming through the air. The Tigers were also only able to convert 31 percent of their third downs and the Bulldogs forced five three-and-out sequences.
The only touchdown of the game came in the second quarter when Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith intercepted a Uiagalelei pass that was ran back 74 yards to the end zone.
Smith said after the game that he saw the pick coming when it left Uiagalelei’s hands.
“We had been working on that play all week,” Smith added. “Trying to perfect our disguise on that play. I showed outside leverage and broke inside. The rest was history after that.”
Dean pointed out that the coaching staff preached all summer about forcing turnovers.
“The whole offseason we have been prying ourselves in taking the ball away,” Dean said. “It’s either you’re elite or you’re not. So, we’ve been working towards that in a big way. On that play, (Christopher Smith) was elite.”
Clemson’s offense was basically one-dimensional as Georgia continued with the constant pressure on Uiagalelei. The California native finished by completing 19 of 37 passes for 178 yards and an interception. The Bulldogs were also able to hold Clemson to two rushing yards on 23 attempts.
Smart praised his defense for a valiant effort on Saturday night.
“We held the line, played to our standout, and just really proud of the guys and how hard they played,” Smart said. “It seems like we’re more athletic up there than we’ve been in the past.”
Junior safety Lewis Cine led the team with nine tackles and two pass breakups, while Anderson and Dean each had five tackles, respectively. Senior defensive back Latavious Brini, who filled in for the injured Tykee Smith at the STAR position, tallied five tackles and one tackle for loss.
Smart said that a performance like this gives his players a confidence boost heading into next week’s matchup against UAB.
“I can’t say enough about coach (Dan) Lanning and his staff,” he added. “I have so much confidence in them. You know in the past I’ve always been so involved, jumping on the defense and he just does it right. The kids play so hard for him and they played so hard tonight. They played with energy and enthusiasm. The defense was phenomenal.”