No. 8 Clemson takes a big bite out of No. 5 Bulldogs

Tajh Boyd passed for 270 yards and three touchdowns as No. 8 Clemson got its season off to a resounding start with a 38-35 victory against No. 5 Georgia Saturday night.

Playing in front of a packed house of 83,830 at Memorial Stadium — the 11th-largest crowd in stadium history — the Tigers pulled away from a 21-21 deadlock at halftime to defeat Georgia for the first time since 1990. The Bulldogs had won five straight in the series.

Clemson became the first non-Southeastern Conference team ever to defeat Top 10 SEC teams in consecutive games. The Tigers defeated ninth-ranked LSU 25-24 in the Chick-fil-Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

Clemson receiver Martavis Bryant, who had two drops and didn’t catch a pass in the game, had good hands when it counted most, snatching an onside kick attempt by the Bulldogs with 1:17 remaining to seal the victory.

The game was a back-and-forth shootout befitting two teams with prolific offenses and questionable defenses rife with untested youth. They combined for 73 points, the most total points in the history of the 63-game series.

Clemson’s defense once again exhibited a penchant for allowing big plays. The Tigers, which allowed 69 plays of 20 yards or more last season, surrendered nine such plays against Georgia (0-1), but came up with big stops when it counted most.

In the end, a high snap on a 20-yard field goal attempt by Georgia late in the third quarter that would have tied the game at 31-31 proved to be the difference.

The game began in wild fashion and continued that way for the first 30 minutes. Boyd scored on a 4-yard run on Clemson’s second possession, but Georgia responded 12 seconds later with a 75-yard scoring run by Todd Gurley, who finished with 154 yards on 12 carries.

Sammy Watkins struck back on the next play, however, as the Clemson sophomore receiver gathered in a Boyd pass and dashed 77 yards for a 14-7 Clemson lead.

Keith Marshall added a four-yard touchdown run and Quayvon Hicks a one-yard score as Georgia gained a 21-14 lead early in the second quarter, but Clemson got a 2-yard run from Boyd to tie it at halftime.

Clemson’s defense tightened in the second half, getting more pressure on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and sacking him three times. Murray completed 17 of 26 passes for 266 yards and was intercepted once.

In the third quarter, Boyd gave Clemson a temporary lead with a 31-yard scoring toss to running back Zac Brooks, but Gurley scored on a 12-yard yard to tie the game again.

Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 24-yard field goal to give Clemson the lead for good with 4:46 left in the third quarter. Tight end Stanton Seckinger scored on a 9-yard pass from Boyd with 7:40 left to give the Tigers a seemingly commanding 38-28 lead, but Georgia struck back with 1:19 left on Murray’s 1-yard run to pull to within 3.

Clemson’s Roderick “Hot Rod” McDowell, making his first career start, rushed for 132 yards on 22 carries while Watkins led the Tigers’ receivers with 127 yards on six receptions.

Photo courtesy of CU Athletics

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