More than meets the eye

CLEMSON - While the stats may not offer much in the way of signs of progress, the Clemson defense stood up on Saturday night.

The 323 yards through the air by Aaron Murray and 154 on the ground by Todd Gurley don't look pretty. Neither do the 35 points scored by the Georgia offense.

But a little deeper look inside the numbers might reveal some reason for Clemson fans to be optimistic about this season's defense.

After Georgia scored on three of its first four drives, which included a run of three consecutive touchdown drives, the Dawgs went three plays and out on their next three possessions. Just two of their final eight possessions ended with points.

Of the 545 total yards, 284 were gained in the first half. The Tigers also yielded one less touchdown in the second half.

And 75 of Gurley's yards were on his first quarter touchdown run. He had 79 yards on the other 11 rushes.

World beating?

No.

Confidence building?

Absolutely.

"We had them down," Travis Blanks said. "We studied them well. Georgia is a team that sticks to what they do. They didn't do a whole lot that surprised us."

Brent Venables and the rest of Clemson's defensive staff were confident before Saturday night's 38-35 victory.

"We expected to win. We liked the matchup," Venables said. "We have a great respect for Georgia. But, we felt like going in, we could win up front. We needed to tackle well. And we needed to stay on top of the deep ball. We did that."

Clemson won up front. The five tackles for loss, four of which were sacks, are a pretty good indicator.

For the most part, the Tigers tackled well. Linebacker Spencer Shuey led the team with 12. Robert Smith, Stephone Anthony and Blanks each had seven.

While a knee to Malcolm Mitchell may have helped, Aaron Murray's longest completion was a 38-yard hookup with the fullback. He completed three other passes that went for 20 yards or more.

As the old saying goes, it all starts up front. And the Clemson defensive line played a big part in Tigers' first win in 2013. Corey Crawford believes that he and his mates on the defensive front picked up a few believers on Saturday night.

"As the game went on, we just kept pounding them and pounding them. They kept getting tired. We really weren't," Crawford said. "I just feel like we made a statement tonight."

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