Bulldogs Hand Bowden First Shutout


by - Correspondent -
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Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst tries for the TD catch in the endzone.

CLEMSON - Clemson came into this year's season opener against Georgia full of high hopes and new enthusiasm. It left facing answers to many of the same questions which haunted Tommy Bowden's team a year ago.


After months of talk about toughness, new formations and a renewed intensity, the Tigers simply were awful in Saturday's 30-0 loss to the ninth-ranked Bulldogs. The cosmetic changes did little to make people forget the struggles of the 2002 Tigers, at least after one week.


In fact, Saturday was worse than the lowest point of last season:


The shutout defeat was Clemson's first in Bowden's tenure at the school.


"I thought we would be a little more productive offensively," Bowden said. "The defense kept us in the game. We had some chances early in the fourth quarter, but couldn't capitalize. The defense just ran out of gas."


POST GAME INTERVIEWS
Tommy Bowden - Real | Windows Media Georgia head coach Mark Richt - Real | Windows Media Charlie Whitehurst - Real | Windows Media


Having shunned the no huddle and running most of the afternoon with quarterback Charlie Whitehurst operating under center, the Clemson offense still looked eerily like the one that showed up - or perhaps didn't show up - against better competition over the second half of last season.


The offensive line never got a consistent push against a Georgia front four missing two starters (Clemson only rushed for 35 net yards) and had a hard time keeping pressure off Whitehurst as the game wore on. Though only sacked twice, the redshirt sophomore had to pick himself up from the turf on numerous occasions, or scramble out of the pocket and simply throw the ball away to avoid lost yardage.


After throwing for 123 yards in the first half (15-of-22), Whitehurst was just 4-of-12 for 28 yards in the second half. Those totals also included a costly interception by All American defensive end David Pollack on a third-and-goal play from the Bulldogs' 10 yard line with the Tigers trailing just 16-0 early in the fourth quarter.


Still, Whitehurst chose to shoulder most of the blame himself.


"When it was 16-0, we were down there and probably should have had a touchdown or two under our belt if I could just execute," he said. "I don't think they (Georgia) are in a different league than us, but we need to learn how to win. They've learned how to win and have won every close game, but we just need to learn how."


But it wasn't just the offensive line. Everything seemed out of synch at one point or another.


If receivers weren't banging into one another on pass routes, Whitehurst was having problems (twice) with the center exchange with Tommy Sharpe. If All-American cornerback candidate Justin Miller was being severely burned on a deep post route for a touchdown by Georgia receiver Fred Gibson, the punt coverage team was operating with only 10 men on the field.


And the play-calling also left itself open for questioning. The unwillingness to aggressively attack Georgia's depleted secondary by throwing downfield early and often only added to Clemson's problems.


Instead Bowden - who made it a point earlier this year to publicly state he would be calling most of the plays this season - seemed content to stay with more of a horizontal passing game, throwing to the sidelines in hopes that his receivers might break a tackle and turn in a big play.


"That's on the coaches," Whitehurst said. "Maybe they saw something. It's hard for me to see exactly what's going on down on the field. I think if we could have run the ball a little bit more, maybe we could have thrown the ball over their heads."


All in all, the Tigers hardly looked like a team which had been preparing for this game since spring practice began last March.


"We can play better," Bowden said. "We're a good team. This just gives us a challenge. There's a lot of football left (and) a lot of room for improvement."


Georgia quickly put the game away following Pollack's pick, driving 60 yards in just six plays. Quarterback David Greene capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown run to make it 23-0 with 5:53 to go.


One possession later, backup quarterback D.J. Shockley ran through the exhausted Clemson defense for a 29-yard scoring run for the game's final score.


Georgia built the 16-0 lead on Gibson's long (56-yard) touchdown reception from Greene in the first quarter and three Billy Bennett field goals (34, 30, 42).


It could have been worse had the Bulldogs not exhibited some early-season rust of their own. A bad snap on a 32-yard field goal attempt thwarted one second quarter opportunity, and the offense's inability to capitalize on a first-and-goal from the Clemson 11 short-circuited another in the third.


"I think we have a lot of potential offensively, but we need to execute a little bit better," said Georgia head coach Mark Richt. "We had a chance to score some points in the first half, but we missed a couple of nice opportunities... We have a lot of room to improve, but it was a solid performance."


But for all the talk of depth problems and possible heat exhaustion due to injuries and suspensions, it was Clemson who wilted down the stretch by allowing the two fourth-quarter touchdowns.


After taking it all in, Whitehurst tried to put a positive spin on a decidedly negative afternoon.


"It's a tough loss, but there's still a lot of football left to be played," he said. "Leadership is good and our unity is good. We've just got to stick together."



Clemson-Ga. Drive Chart


FIRST QUARTER

Georgia 7, Clemson 0

Scoring Drive: 4 plays, 80 yards in 1:39.

Scoring Play: David Greene's 56-yard pass to Fred Gibson at 9:21.

Key Play: Scoring play, in which Gibson beat Justin Miller one-on-one on a deep post.



Georgia 10, Clemson 0

Scoring Drive: 8 plays, 27 yards in 4:17.

Scoring Play: Bennett's 34-yard field goal at 1:50.

Key Play: Greene's 9-yard completion to Gibson at the Clemson 21 on third and 6.



SECOND QUARTER

Georgia 13, Clemson 0

Scoring Drive: 4 plays, 5 yards in :50.

Scoring Play: Bennett's 30-yard field goal at 11:09.

Key Play: None.



THIRD QUARTER

Georgia 16, Clemson 0

Scoring Drive: 4 plays, 7 yards in 1:55

Scoring Play: Bennett's 42-yard field goal at 4:32.

Key Play: None



FOURTH QUARTER

Georgia 23, Clemson 0

Scoring Drive: 6 plays, 60 yards in 3:00.

Scoring Play: Greene's 3-yard run at 5:53.

Key Play: Greene's 39-yard completion to Johnson to the Clemson 6-yard line.



Georgia 30, Clemson 0

Scoring Drive: 6 plays, 61 yards in 2:44.

Scoring Play: Shockley's 29-yard run at 2:42.

Key Play: Scoring Play.


Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score ----------------- -- -- -- -- ----- Georgia Bulldogs.... 10 3 3 14 - 30 Record: (1-0) Clemson Tigers...... 0 0 0 0 - 0 Record: (0-1)

Scoring Summary: 1st 09:21 UGA - Fred Gibson 56 yd pass from David Greene (Billy Bennett kick), 4-80 1:39, UGA 7 - CU 0 01:50 UGA - Billy Bennett 34 yd field goal 8-27 4:17, UGA 10 - CU 0 2nd 11:09 UGA - Billy Bennett 30 yd field goal 4-5 0:48, UGA 13 - CU 0 3rd 04:32 UGA - Billy Bennett 42 yd field goal 4-7 1:55, UGA 16 - CU 0 4th 05:53 UGA - David Greene 3 yd run (Billy Bennett kick), 6-60 3:00, UGA 23 - CU 0 02:42 UGA - D.J. Shockley 29 yd run (Billy Bennett kick), 6-61 2:44, UGA 30 - CU 0

UGA CU FIRST DOWNS................... 18 14 RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 49-197 24-35 PASSING YDS (NET)............. 214 164 Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 21-13-0 37-20-1 TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 70-411 61-199 Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 1-2 0-0 Punt Returns-Yards............ 1-12 0-0 Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 0-0 4-102 Interception Returns-Yards.... 1-24 0-0 Punts (Number-Avg)............ 2-33.0 6-41.3 Fumbles-Lost.................. 1-0 3-2 Penalties-Yards............... 5-49 6-45 Possession Time............... 33:45 26:15 Third-Down Conversions........ 6 of 16 4 of 14 Fourth-Down Conversions....... 2 of 4 1 of 2 Red-Zone Scores-Chances....... 3-5 0-2 Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 2-11 3-14

RUSHING: Georgia Bulldogs-Ronnie Powell 17-54; Tony Milton 14-53; D.J. Shockley 3-47; Michael Cooper 5-45; Jeremy Thomas 2-5; Jeff Lyons 1-3; Billy Bennett 1-1; David Greene 6-minus 11. Clemson Tigers-Duane Coleman 12-29; Chad Jasmin 4-13; Reggie Merriweather 1-minus 2; Charlie Whitehurst 7-minus 5.

PASSING: Georgia Bulldogs-David Greene 12-17-0-203; D.J. Shockley 1-4-0-11. Clemson Tigers- Charlie Whitehurst 19-33-1-151; Chansi Stuckey 1-3-0-13; Duane Coleman 0-1-0-0.

RECEIVING: Georgia Bulldogs-Fred Gibson 4-104; Michael Johnson 2-44; Ben Watson 2-25; Robert Brannon 2-5; Reggie Brown 1-23; Damien Gary 1-11; Tony Milton 1-2. Clemson Tigers-Airese Currie 7-56; Derrick Hamilton 5-46; Kevin Youngblood 3-24; Duane Coleman 2-5; Bobby Williamson 1-15; Grant Kelvin 1-13; Chad Jasmin 1-5.

INTERCEPTIONS: Georgia Bulldogs-David Pollack 1-24. Clemson Tigers-None.

FUMBLES: Georgia Bulldogs-Lee Jackson 1-0. Clemson Tigers-Charlie Whitehurst 2-1; Derrick Hamilton 1-1.

Stadium: Memorial Stadium Attendance: 83000 Kickoff time: 12:11 PM End of Game: 3:15 PM Total elapsed time: 3:04 Officials: Referee: Rogers Redding; Umpire: John Rodriguez; Linesman: Lea Rutter; Line judge: Mike McGinnis; Back judge: Rick Loumiet; Field judge: Richard Morales; Side judge: Stanley Dixon; Scorer: Larry Nash; Temperature: 83 Wind: W8mph Weather: Partly Cloudy

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