This (special) season just getting started

Whatever happened Saturday against Georgia, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney's message to his team Sunday should be simple: The season isn't over after just one game, no matter how special and exciting that game was.

If the Tigers heed that message, the season could be something special, as well.

It's certainly an easier message for Swinney to sell to his players after an impressive win over fifth-ranked Georgia on Saturday. The game lived up to all the hype that was bestowed on it before the season: two top-10 teams, two talented quarterbacks and two question mark-filled defenses.

There were a lot of yards and plenty of points, but it's not like this game turned into a Mountain West contest with no defense to be played. It was plenty physical, and it was filled with big plays on offense and defense for both teams.

And it was a game Clemson controlled in the fourth quarter. Think about that. For the second straight game, against an SEC power, Clemson controlled the fourth quarter and was the more physical team when it mattered the most. The game was back and forth throughout, and it was tied at 28 with about seven minutes left in the third quarter on an impressive Todd Gurley run for the Bulldogs. From there, however, Clemson was in charge.

Tajh Boyd and the offense took control and scored 10 straight points while the defense stepped up, as well, until Georgia scored in the final two minutes. But for all the talk about Clemson making mistakes in key spots, that didn't happen. There were no turnovers by the offense (the only turnover was a muffed punt), and while there were some missteps by the defense, it played pretty well against a dynamic Bulldogs offense.

Georgia was the team with key mistakes: two turnovers to one for Clemson and nine penalties to five for Clemson. But Georgia's penalties seemed more hurtful than Clemson as they always seemed to come when Georgia was mounting a drive, or they pushed the Bulldogs into tough early drive situations.

That said, Clemson's season doesn't end after one game; the Tigers don't automatically get a bye into the BCS title game after their 38-35 performance. Fans heard Swinney say on the ABC broadcast, "The season starts tomorrow."

And he's right on the money.

Next up is a game against South Carolina State and then a Thursday trip to N.C. State (we all remember how the last trip to N.C. State went). The next real big game isn't until Oct. 19 against Florida State, but the Tigers have to stay focused on the next two games, along with Wake Forest, Syracuse and Boston College before they get to that one. Clemson, however, has been pretty good at that recently. Last year's two losses were to two top-10 teams. There were no real hiccups or bad losses, and Swinney has done a good job of getting his players to focus on the next play and the next game and not looking too far ahead or getting too full of themselves.

Making history
The SEC is definitely the top conference in the land, but the Tigers made some history with their win Saturday.

Clemson became the first non-SEC team to beat top-10 SEC teams in consecutive games. That's a big statement for this team and this program as it tries to take the next step and be a consistent top-10 program. Those kinds of games for the longest time gave Clemson fits. Now they have won two of them in a row. That has to count for something -- again if the Tigers can back them up and win the games they're supposed to.

Terrific Tajh
There is no doubt who the leader of the Clemson football program is.

Boyd was off on a couple of throws Saturday, but no quarterback can expect to be perfect against a top team like Georgia, and make no mistake, Georgia is a top-10 team. Boyd, however, was a true leader for his team throughout the game. He completed 18-of-30 passes for 270 yards and accounted for five touchdowns – three through the air and two on the ground.

On each of the touchdown throws, Boyd showed off skills that make him special. The early touchdown to Sammy Watkins was a side-armed bullet through the Georgia defense after a body-freezing play fake that brought Georgia safety Connor Norman up toward the line and out of position.

The second scoring throw, to running back Zac Brooks on a wheel route, showed off Boyd's touch and was dropped perfectly to allow Brooks to make the catch.

And the final score, on a short pass to Stanton Seckinger showed off Boyd's patience and decision making.

Boyd didn't complete as many passes as counterpart Aaron Murray or have as many yards, but Boyd outplayed Murray. Boyd had zero turnovers while Murray had a terrible interception deep in Clemson territory and a fumble deep in Georgia's own territory that set up a Clemson score.

Boyd, on the other hand, was steady and kept his team going even when the offense sputtered at times and it looked like Georgia was taking control.

True leader stuff.

Boyd/Watkins need help
As well as Boyd and Watkins played – Watkins had six catches for 127 yards – they need some help from the other receivers for this team to take things to another level offensively.

Charone Peake did have five catches for 58 yards, but he had an important drop. And Martavis Bryant didn't catch a ball and had a drop late on a deep ball that could have been huge had Clemson not built its 10-point lead. Also, Adam Humphries had only one catch for 8 yards.

Boyd did hit seven receivers, but there has to be more balance and big plays from the other receivers.

More than one running game
There was plenty of talk throughout the week about Gurley and Keith Marshall, and they are both terrific backs.

Gurley is special, and he showed that again Saturday with 12 rushes for 154 yards and two touchdowns despite some leg issues. Marshall was pretty good, too, with 43 yards and one score on 16 carries.

But overlooked in the lead-up to the game was Clemson's running game. Yes, Andre Ellington is gone from last year, but Roderick McDowell has been waiting for his chance to be the featured back. And he made the most of it Saturday with 22 carries for 132 yards. He had several "wow" moments during the game, but most importantly, he ran physical. He pounded the Georgia defenders and made them pay for making tackles. He fought hard for the tough yards, and that was important. Brooks only had three carries, but he added 20 yards and was physical, as well.

That's exactly the kind of running game the Tigers need to balance their dynamic passing game.

Clemson ran the ball 46 times for 197 yards and didn't lean too much on Boyd like it did in the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU. McDowell and Brooks look like a tremendous combo, and they will be important to the Tigers' chances of having a special season.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.

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