With about 13 minutes remaining in Georgia’s 41-30 Southeastern Conference victory over South Carolina Saturday, Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray finally laid to rest any commentary regarding his feelings toward Jadeveon Clowney.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) wipes his face as Georgia defeats South Carolina 41-30 at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Athens, Ga.
On third-and-3 from his own 15-yard line, South Carolina’s All-American defensive end slipped by offensive tackle Mark Beard — who in the third quarter spelled starter Kenarious Gates after Gates went out with a ankle injury — and set his sights on stopping Murray.
But just as Clowney got by Beard, Murray skittered away from Clowney — who at Southeastern Conference Media Days in July said that Murray and other quarterbacks he’d faced were “scared” of him — and found split end Justin Scott-Wesley wide open on the left side of the field. From that point, it was off to the races as Scott-Wesley scurried 85 yards for the game’s final touchdown.
“Our coaches always talk about finishing each play,” Beard said. “(Clowney) got me on the inside, but when the time came for us to finish, Murray redirected and I redirected with him and got a chip shot on (Clowney) and gave Murray enough time to get it down the field to Scott.”
And thus, for a week anyway, it seemed the Bulldogs (1-1, 1-0) found some answers to the question about stopping — or at least slowing down — Clowney, who even though he had an underwhelming performance still finished with three tackles, including a quarterback sack and a tackle for loss, for the Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1).
“(Clowney) got banged up somewhere along the way and he didn’t play full-speed, but he’s a great player,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We had a good plan and we executed well. I still think he’s one of the best players on the planet.”
While Gates, at times in tandem with tight end Arthur Lynch and left guard Dallas Lee, managed to hold Clowney in check for much of the day, Georgia’s blueprint appeared to focus on keeping the ball as far away from South Carolina’s 6-foot-6, 274-pound wrecking ball as possible.
“Aaron played a pretty good game today,” Clowney said. “He threw it quick and ran it away from me the whole game. Their game plan worked out for them today. … I was surprised (the South Carolina defense didn’t play better). We worked hard all week. Game planning, we knew we had to stop the run coming into the game, and we just didn’t do it. We didn’t come in and execute like we were supposed to.”
In defeating South Carolina for the first time in his storied college career, Murray completed 17 of 23 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns and led the Bulldogs’ offense on a final drive that traversed 81 yards and ate up more than eight minutes of clock. Tailback Todd Gurley also did his part, rushing for 132 yards and touchdowns on the ground and through the air.
“The key was sticking to our game plan and doing what we do best, which is giving the ball to (Gurley), and when we did pass it we made sure (Clowney) was accounted for,” right guard Chris Burnette said. “He did get a sack, but really that was because of some miscommunication. Whenever we can account for a player that great, I think we can beat anybody.”
Gates, who left the game late in the third quarter, did not directly address Clowney’s play as he hobbled out of the Bulldogs’ locker room but toed the company line about cohesive play.
“We got the win,” Gates said. “We beat them down on national TV, and that’s all that matters. We took care of business and dominated. We worked together and we worked hard today. I thought I played pretty good — I’m happy.”
After South Carolina’s 27-10 season-opening victory over North Carolina on Aug. 29, Clowney was called out in some circles for his less-than-intense play at times. When asked if they sensed a gassed opponent on Saturday, several Bulldogs commented on his on-field production.
“I have no idea what was up with him,” Burnette said of Clowney. “You’d have to ask him. I know he did seem a little tired, like last week.”
“I think we got him a little tired and we got him out of his comfort zone and that was what we wanted to do, especially after seeing him last week,” Lynch added. “He got a little fatigued at times and that’s what happens when you’re running all over the field. I think running the ball really is what helped us win this game and Aaron played lights out and that doesn’t hurt.”
MORE COVERAGE OF GEORGIA’S WIN OVER SOUTH CAROLINA