2003 GEORGIA BULLDOG FOOTBALL No. 9/11 Georgia Bulldogs (0-0) vs. Clemson Tigers (0-0) Date: Aug. 30, Noon ET; Site: Clemson, S.C.; Stadium: Clemson Memorial Stadium (81,743) Radio: Georgia Radio Network (WNGC-FM 106.1 Athens, 750 AM Atlanta) Larry Munson, Scott Howard, Loran Smith, Neil Williamson National Television: ABC-TV (Brent Musburger, Gary Danielsen and Jack Arute) TV Replay: CSS-TV (TBA)
Georgia-Clemson Storylines *For the second year in a row and only second time since 1982, Georgia opens the season against Clemson. The rivalry dates back to 1897 with perhaps the most exciting matchups coming between 1977-1987 when the teams had a 5-5-1 record against each other. Nine of those 11 games were decided by a touchdown or less and four were decided in the last 20 seconds. Last year's matchup was more of the same with the Bulldogs Billy Bennett making a late fourth quarter field goal while the Tigers' kick fell short. Georgia converted a 4th and 1 from its own 38 to run out the clock. Placekickers have played a huge role in this rivalry. There was Georgia's Kevin Butler's 60-yarder with 11 seconds to go for a 26-23 win in 1984 and Clemson's David Treadwell with game-winners in 1986 (46-yarder as time expired for a 31-28 win) and 1987 (21-20).
*Georgia could have as many as eight defenders miss the Clemson game including four projected starters due to injuries. The starters are NT Ken Veal (ankle sprain), DE Will Thompson (dislocated ankle), ROV Kentrell Curry (stress fracture in leg) and S Greg Blue (knee-PCL). The defense has managed in the past. Despite losing six players to the NFL, the 2002 defense under Brian VanGorder helped propel the Bulldogs to their first SEC title in 20 years. They ranked third nationally with 29 scoreless quarters, first in the SEC and fourth nationally in scoring defense (15.1/game); allowed only a total of 31 points in the second half over the final seven games. The 2003 squad must replace five players who have moved to the NFL including the sixth overall player drafted, DT Johnathan Sullivan (New Orleans).
*How will Georgia's youthful offensive line do in its first test? The 2002 starting group plus third tackle George Foster combined to start 160 games by the end of their career. This year's top six features five sophomores and one redshirt freshmen. They have a combined three starts, all by sophomore guard Josh Brock. Also, the Bulldogs stocked up on offensive linemen for the future, signing seven more this past year.
*Georgia has not lost on an opponent's home field under Mark Richt. The Bulldogs are 8-0 in his first two seasons at the helm.
The Georgia-Clemson Series For the first time in school history, the Georgia Bulldogs face Clemson in Clemson to start a campaign. The other eight meetings against the Tigers to open a season all came in Athens including last year's thriller won by the Bulldogs 31-28. Georgia leads 40-17-4 but just 7-6-2 at Memorial Stadium and 8-9-2 at Clemson. Georgia is 6-2 in season openers vs. the Tigers (Last time: 2002: Georgia 31-28) Current Streak: Georgia won the last four meetings (1991, 1994, 1995 and 2002) Last Tiger Win: 1990, 34-3 in Clemson Biggest Georgia Win: 55-0 in 1920 in Athens Biggest Georgia Loss: 36-0 in 1902 in Clemson Games Decided by 7 Points or Less: 10-7-4 Last Georgia Shutout: 1978, 12-0 in Athens Last Tiger Shutout: 1909, 5-0 in Augusta
Last Meeting in Clemson: Injuries forced Georgia reserves into starting roles and the Bulldogs posted a 19-17 win in this 1995 matchup. Freshman Torin Kirtsey, who was making his first career start, ran for 195 yard on 38 carries, the most rushes by a Bulldog RB since Herschel Walker in 1982 against Vanderbilt. South Carolina native Brian Smith, the No. 3 QB, was 13-for-22 for 156 yards and one TD to lead the Bulldog air attack. Clemson finished with 246 yards of total offense with 184 of that coming on the ground. Defenisvely, Georgia's Whit Marshall tallied 15 tackles while Clemson's Leomont Evans collected 18. Also of note, the Tigers wore 1939 throwback uniforms as part of their centennial season celebration. The Tigers blocked three field goal attempts by Georgia and PK Kanon Parkman.
Did You Know? For the first time since the 1996 season, Georgia will start the season wearing black cleats. Actually, this is the third straight game for the Bulldogs in black shoes after trading in their white cleats for black turf shoes for the SEC Championship and Nokia Sugar Bowl matchups in domed stadiums. Georgia won both titles. As Bike-messenger Mars Blackmon once said, "it's the shoes."
Georgia director of strength and conditioning Dave Van Halanger was the best man in Clemson coach Tommy Bowden's wedding. The two were college teammates at West Virginia under Tommy's father, Bobby Bowden, from 1973-75. When Clemson's Brad Scott left Florida State to become head coach at South Carolina in 1994, then FSU assistant Mark Richt was named offensive coordinator for the Seminoles. Richt remained in that role until assuming the top Bulldog post in 2001. Also, John Eason left FSU and was Scott's assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at South Carolina from 1995-98.
Bulldogs on the Sidelines
Georgia has a handful of players who are either out or could miss the opener.
Tyson Browning-RB (3 games), Tim Jennings-DB (2 games), DeMario Minter-S (2 games), B.J. Fields-DB, Chris Hickman-FB, Jamario Smith-FB, Mario Raley-SE, Bryan McClendon-FLK (1 game)