Georgia’s long-criticized defense shut out Clemson in the second half Saturday night, enabling the Bulldogs to turn a 21-21 tie into a 45-21 season-opening victory.
What’s more, after allowing 276 yards on 54 plays in the first half, the Georgia defense held Clemson to just 15 yards on 22 plays in the second half.
“I’m just proud of the defense for stopping their high-powered offense all of the second half,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said afterward.
The difference, safety Corey Moore said, was pretty basic.
“We had some hiccups in the first half,” Moore said, “but I think everyone just looked past that. And we played our assignments and communicated and played as one unit (in the second half).
“It’s something to grow on, because we really progressed from last year to this year in our first game. We’ve just got to keep working. It’s just one game.”
The defense got off to a shaky start. Clemson marched 70 yards in 12 plays to open the game with a touchdown. The Tigers added two more scores in the second quarter, largely because of big pass plays that were reminiscent of last season.
“There weren’t really any adjustments at halftime,” said linebacker Leonard Floyd, who finished with two of Georgia’s five sacks. “Coach Pruitt (new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt) just told us to keep playing our stuff. And the execution came through late in the game.”
In the second half, Clemson had only one first down, zero yards rushing (on 13 attempts) and 15 yards passing.
“We played pretty good in the second half,” said Georgia walk-on redshirt freshman safety Aaron Davis, who started the game and had an interception in the first half. “I think if we always stick to our keys and execute like we did (in the second half), that’s how we should play all of the time. We definitely have the coaching and the players to perform like that at all times.”
As for the difference between the two halves, Davis said, “it might have been some nerves (in the first half). But we just focused more. We were doing the things we’re supposed to do, and those are the results you get.”
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