Georgia safety Christopher Smith returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown and the Bulldogs’ defense held Clemson to 180 total yards in a 10-3 victory Saturday night in the season-opening game for both teams.
The defenses were dominant in front of a crowd of 74,187 at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium, but it was Georgia’s that came up big time and again, sacking Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei seven times and keeping him under pressure all night.
Georgia, ranked No. 5, and No. 3 Clemson are longtime rivals, but were playing for the first time since splitting a home-and-home series in 2013 and 2014. Saturday night’s defeat was Clemson’s first regular-season loss to a non-conference opponent since a 45-21 loss at Georgia in 2014.
Both teams struggled offensively in the inaugural Duke’s Mayo Classic and the game was scoreless until Smith stepped in front of a Uiagalelei pass intended for Justyn Ross with 2:58 left in the first half and sped down the left sideline. He outran Uiagalelei into the end zone to complete the pick-six on his first career interception.
The Bulldogs added a 22-yard field goal by Jack Podlesny with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter to stretch their lead to 10-0.
Clemson’s offense came to life, at least briefly, in the fourth quarter, driving 82 yards in 10 plays before B.T. Potter converted a 22-yard field goal to cut Georgia’s lead to 10-3.
But the Bulldogs tightened up the defense again and sacked Uiagalelei again on the Tigers’ next possession to help seal the victory.
Clemson (0-1) was held to two yards rushing on 23 attempts, its lowest rushing total under Coach Dabo Swinney and the fourth-lowest total in program history. The Tigers’ longest run from scrimmage was 10 yards.
Uiagalelei, a sophomore, completed 19 of 37 passes for 178 yards, including six for 110 yards to Joseph Ngata.
Georgia (1-0) quarterback JT Daniels completed 22 of 30 passes for 135 yards and an interception, while running back Zamir White paced the Bulldogs with 74 yards rushing on 13 carries.
–Field Level Media