Vince Dooley used to always talk about how in a big game with dozens and dozens of plays, it usually came down to about three or four things that decided it. Here's my take:
- In the 3rd quarter, with 11:04 remaining, Clemson had the ball at their own 29 with a 2nd and four. They lined up with a bunch formation on the left side. A few seconds before the snap and we see that Quincy Mauger is out of position, but Aaron Davis, a RS Frosh, gets him into position right before the play starts. Mauger makes a great play and stops Clemson for a half-yard loss. The kicker, though, is if Davis doesn't get him into position then I really think that Clemson might have had a shot for a touchdown or a long gain on that play. With the Dawgs up 24-21 at the time, that would have completely changed the dynamics of the game. It just really jumped out at me. As many in the Dawgosphere have said for quite some time, it seemed as if the core attribute of our D for the last few years has been players flailing their arms into total confusion and frustration - basically not knowing what the hell was going on. To see that happen just put a big smile on my face and was an encapsulation of how much things have changed. Pruitt has simplified the scheme and that will pay large dividends with our superior talent moving forward, I believe.
- Gurley's kickoff return was a game changer. As someone else pointed out, just look at the stats of the game before and after that play. It was huge. What you might not have noticed was this: we could have possibly been flagged for an illegal wedge. In 2010 the NCAA changed the rules to where when the team receiving a kickoff has more than two players standing within two yards of one another, shoulder to shoulder, it will be assessed a 15-yard penalty — even if there is no contact between the teams. Apparently, at least a few folks on the interwebs have mentioned that UGA employed an illegal wedge on that return, but they would be wrong. Upon multiple slow-motion reviews, the Dawgs were within the rules. While we had three guys within those confines for at least a split second, they were not "shoulder to shoulder." Fortunately, they didn't call it. And that was the right call.
- Gurley's third touchdown early in the 4th quarter, while we might not have known it at the time, pretty much sealed the deal. The Clemson D was already suckin' wind. And after that, they were just toast.
- If the game was won by us wearing them down with our running game in the 4th quarter, then the table was set by our D and especially our special teams' play in the 3rd quarter. That quarter was a throwback to the olden days where you would see teams play a chess match of field position for large swaths of the game. That's exactly what happened in the third, and compliments of Messrs. Barber and Erickson, we won that match. They really helped us out and should be commended.