1. Pass protection needs to improve: The offensive line was expected to be a strength of the team this season. It wasn’t a strength Saturday. Quarterback Aaron Murray often was pressured and fumbled while being sacked in the second quarter, leading to a Clemson touchdown. The biggest issue is at left tackle, where senior Kenarious Gates starts. There is no good timing for this, but is particularly bad. Why? The Bulldogs play South Carolina next week. Think maybe Jadeveon Clowney was watching this game. Georgia fans don’t need to be reminded how Clowney and the Gamecocks’ defense dominated last year’s meeting in Columbia.
2. The real difference maker: Georgia lost its best wide receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, to a knee injury in the first quarter. How much that impacted the offense is up for debate. Quarterback Aaron Murray still found open receivers against the Clemson defense. Conversely, running back Todd Gurley again showed that Georgia is a different team when he’s out of the game. Gurley had a 75-yard touchdown run early in the game, left soon after with a thigh injury, was in and out of the game, then returned again midway through the third and powered through the Clemson defense for a 12-yard touchdown run that tied the score 28-28. Keith Marshall is good, but Gurley is the difference-maker in the backfield and on this offense.
3. Defense needs to get better — and will: Defense figured to be an issue this game. It was. Playing without suspended safety Josh Harvey-Clemons robbed the defense of one of its smartest and most mobile players, a key against a fast team such as Clemson. Losing other defensive backs to injuries left an already young secondary somewhat depleted and certainly inexperienced. But there is reason to believe Georgia will get better on defense as the season goes on, and Clemons’ return next week against South Carolina will help.