Clemson - UGA rewind

CLEMSON – College football – especially when coached by Chad Morris – moves fast. And unless you're especially perceptive, you're going to miss a few things.

This goes for fans and media members alike. When I'm at my seat in a football press box, distractions abound. There's the action on the field, the buzz of activity on the sidelines, social media, my notepad, other reporters – the list goes on.

When you watch a game at home or in the stadium, you miss things, too. You're watching with eight or 83,000 of your closest friends, you're cooking, enjoying yourself, watching the wrong thing, and something important slips by.

That's where the DVR comes into play. One of the best technological innovations of the past 20 years, the DVR saves that crucial football game for when you're more focused.

I've found that I pick up a lot of new details from a second look, and I thought I'd share them with you, perhaps as a regular feature.

So without further ado, here's a rewind from the ABC broadcast of Clemson 38, Georgia 35:

"You are looking LIVE at Clemson Memorial Stadium, in Clemson, South Carolina, where the game of the week is about to unfold," Brent Musburger – who has a seat permanently reserved for him at the Esso Club – intones. "Two high-powered offenses for the right to be called "contender" when the night is over, while the loser must slink away as a pretender."

I thought it was fascinating that ABC spent at least six minutes in pregame on Clemson's Hill ritual – following the buses around the stadium perimeter with an aerial angle and explaining the process for national viewers who haven't seen it unfold.

"Herbie," Musburger says to partner Kirk Herbstreit, "I have seen this live many times, but I have never watched it live from this point. I've never seen it from this perspective of how they get to the top of the hill. …. It's an unbelievable tradition in college football that never gets old. If you'd like to go to college football stadiums to see one game, I'd make sure Clemson is on that list. It's spectacular."

As the players gather at Howard's Rock, Musburger says, "I call this the most exciting 25 seconds in college football. It remains today… the most exciting 25 seconds in college football."

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It was a very well-done opening.

As for the game itself, it's nice to watch a game with ESPN/ABC's premier duo.

Herbstreit makes an excellent point after Watkins hauls in a nice third-down grab.

"I think Sammy Watkins is ready to have a big year," he said. "He's like a bird in a cage." He is equally prescient about Charone Peake. "Peake has excellent speed," he says, "if he can hold onto the ball."

Tajh Boyd must have watched the Texas A&M game earlier Saturday. As he crosses the goal line with the game's first score, he makes the same "money" gesture with his hands as Johnny Manziel. By the way, he's on a first-name reference basis with Musburger, who just says "Tajh."

As Georgia lines up for its possession, Herbstreit says, "I think they have to run the football. They have to win the line of scrimmage with Gurley and Marshall."

That, too, was prescient: Gurley tears around the right end – see ya. 75 yards later, the game is tied.

On a second look, a fullback and right tackle created a big hole, and it didn't help that safety Travis Blanks was blocked into Spencer Shuey. Robert Smith had one last chance for a tackle, but it wasn't much of a chance at all.

No matter. Sammy Watkins answers with a big play of his own. After cornerback Damian Swann makes the mistake of trying to tackle him high, Watkins is off to the races, sprinting for a 77-yard touchdown that gives the Tigers the lead right back.

"There's Heisman Trophy candidates all over the field," Musburger says. "You just saw two – Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins."

Clemson's defense struggled early on. On a key fourth and four at the Clemson 34, the secondary played soft coverage with linebacker Quandon Christian and corner Darius Robinson, and Georgia took advantage with an easy conversion by Justin Scott-Wesley.

Gurley limps off with a thigh issue, but his replacement, Keith Marshall, is also impressive, dragging D.J. Reader and Garry Peters into the end zone for a game-tying score.

Rod McDowell – making his first career start – is clearly inspired. He's running hard between the tackles and outside, and the announcers notice. Know who else gets Brent's first-name treatment? "Chad" told them some interesting things, Brent says.

While Shuey made a very nice play to down Bradley Pinion's punt at the Georgia 3, that field position is quickly erased when giant UGA fullback Quayvon Hicks blasts through a massive hole for a 37-yard gain.

It appears Blanks gets caught up in the clutter, but it is also a very well-executed play.

As the second quarter begins with the score tied at 14, Clemson's defense is still struggling. After Murray makes a nice third-down completion to Rantavious Wooten on Robinson, Herbstreit comments that "you've got a rhythmic QB and you give him a soft cushion. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me."

Wooten finds his own rhythm, making a 34-yard completion that sets up a very short score by 257-pound Hicks.

A thought on the pass interference that Watkins draws on Tray Matthews, who didn't appear to touch him: Emmy or Oscar-worthy.

Peake looks like a guy playing on the front line for the first time, bobbling and dropping what should have been a sure first down from Boyd. Clemson needs a boost from its defense, and early in the second quarter, it appears that Brent Venables changes the conversation with significant pressure.

With 10:11 left, Georgia takes over at its own 19. On third and 9, end Vic Beasley streams around left tackle and smashes Murray, who seems to see him only at the last second.

On the Bulldogs' next drive, Beasley nearly intercepts a pass deflected by Quandon Christian. Moments later, Corey Crawford and Stephone Anthony converge on Murray to strip the ball, which Shuey recovers.

Five plays later, the game is tied at 21 thanks to another Tajh Boyd sneak, who earns a "Russell Wilson" comparison from the booth crew as a reward.

The dominant story of the late second quarter and early third quarter is just how well Clemson's defense is playing. You have Crawford dropping back into coverage as a 6-4, 270-pound defensive end and picking off Murray easily, which negates Watkins' unforced muff of a punt.

Venables appears comfortable sending blitzes with Shuey, Anthony and Beasley.

Early in the third quarter, Herbstreit remarks "those orange jerseys are just pushing the line back into Aaron Murray" and adds Clemson's defense is "playing with a ton of confidence and in attack mode."

While Peake had his struggles in the pass game, he also had some solid moments, catching five passes for 58 yards. One of his more impressive moments came on fourth and 1 from the UGA 35, when his second-effort spin picked up five yards and the first down.

One play later, Boyd evokes memories of C.J. Spiller with a flawless wheel route throw down the right sideline to Zac Brooks, who finishes for a 31-yard touchdown catch.

On the next drive, Georgia keeps the ball with a flawlessly-executed fake punt run. The Bulldogs made it look easy; I didn't think Clemson looked prepared at all.

It seemed to demoralize the defense, which looked flat as the Bulldogs scored a game-tying touchdown.

By the way, it's no secret, but Gurley will play in the NFL for a long time. He's physical, fast and impressive.

After Clemson drives for a field goal and a 31-28 lead, the game's biggest sequence unfolds. On a third and 2 from the Clemson 45, Murray connects with Chris Conley for a 35-yard gain. Cornerback Garry Peters takes a poor angle to spring Conley, and safety Robert Smith isn't much better. Corner Bashaud Breeland uses a horse-collar tackle to bring him down at the 10, and a five-yard penalty gives UGA first and goal at the Clemson 5.

With Gurley and Marshall in the backfield, it seems almost inevitable that the Bulldogs will take the lead.

But Clemson's defensive line comes up huge, allowing three yards on three attempts – and Georgia seals its fate with a high snap on the field goal try, ending the threat.

Watkins had six catches for 127 yards and a touchdown, but I felt Peake and Martavis Bryant suffered through some opening-night jitters. Bryant just has to make catches like the long ball that Boyd lofted to him down the left sideline early in the fourth quarter.

One play later, Peake juggled a ball on the sidelines for a 16-yard gain, and it's probably smart that Clemson hustles to run the next play and preclude any review.

Shortly afterward, the cameras cut to DeAndre Hopkins on the sidelines, giving Bryant some encouragement.

Following a 36-yard burst by McDowell and a two-yard blast by Zac Brooks, Herbstreit exclaims that "we came in here raving about Gurley and Marshall, but how about McDowell and Brooks of Clemson?"

With good reason.

That set up Stanton Seckinger's nine-yard touchdown catch, originally ruled out at the 2 but overturned following a review that showed he hit the goal-line pylon with the ball as his left foot hovered above the sideline.

"His left foot stayed in the air," Herbstreit exclaimed. "That's a touchdown."

ABC is also right on top of the near-disaster that was a punt hitting off freshman linebacker Ben Boulware and into the end zone, where senior special teamer C.J. Jones smartly picks it up and runs forward.

Herbstreit notes that he received a text from NCAA supervisor of officials Rogers Redding, who says that if a player is blocked into the ball, it's as if he never touched it.

After Bryant seals the game with a redemptive grab of Georgia's final onside kick, the booth notes Clemson's next big game – Oct. 19's visit from Florida State.

But Herbstreit wants Clemson to circle Oct. 26's visit to Maryland.

Old habits die hard, I guess.

If all goes well, expect the same duo to be back in the Valley for Clemson-FSU.

Musburger: "I'll be at the Esso Club the week of the Florida State game." Top Stories