|by Nikki Steele|
They were wrong – at least in the first half.
The 2014 rematch of the instant border rivalry classic that was played in Death Valley a year ago was just as exciting as it was the first time around.
Clemson and Georgia are tied at the half at 21-21, the same score as 2013.
Player of the half: Todd Gurley was the best player on the field, hands down. Gurley was simply electric during his time on the field. Gurley had four rushes for 44 yards and a score, along with a 100-yard kickoff return. On the return, the only person who touched Gurley was his blocker when Gurley put his hand on his shoulder.
Stat of the half: Despite the three-and-outs, Clemson ran 54 offensive plays to Georgia’s 27.
What’s working for the Tigers:Outside of two drives, Clemson defense played relatively well during the first half. Georgia had 126 total yards – 58 rushing and 68 passing. The defense had to work with a short field three times in the half.
Deshaun Watson made his first appearance of his very young Clemson career in the second quarter. The Gainesville (GA) native led the Tigers on a six-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a 30-yard bullet to Charone Peake to tie the game at 14-14.
What’s not working for the Tigers:Dropped passes are killing Clemson’s offense. On back-to-back possessions in the first quarter, Mike Williams dropped two passes and Charone Peake had one knocked out of his hands that led to two Tiger three-and-outs.
What the Tigers need to do to win: Containing Todd Gurley is the key to beating Georgia. Whether it’s in the back field, at receiver or returning kickoffs , Clemson’s defense and special teams need to stop keep Gurley inside the tackles to eliminate the big plays. Offensively, Clemson need to eliminate the three-and-outs to give its defense rest and simply catch the ball.
Other stats - Clemson had 276 yards of total offense. C.J. Davidson was Clemson’s most consistent runner, carrying the ball 10 times for 47 yards. Despite the drops, Williams had three catches for 88 yards.
Nikki Steele can be reached at email@example.com