Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley (3) runs past Clemson Tigers safety Jadar Johnson (18) after scoring a touchdown during Saturday’s college football game at Sanford Stadium in Athens. (Staff Photo: David Welker)
ATHENS — Todd Gurley rushed for 198 yards and scored four touchdowns, including one on a 100-yard kickoff return, and 12th-ranked Georgia rolled to a 45-21 victory over No. 16 Clemson on Saturday night in the season opener for both teams.
On a hot and humid night at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, a sellout crowd of 92,749 was treated to Gurley’s version of a one-man show.
The junior tailback, who had just four carries at the half, was unstoppable in the second half, rushing for 154 yards on 15 carries to spark a Georgia offense that scored 24 straight points and turned a 21-21 game into a rout.
Gurley finished with a school-record 293 all-purpose yards.
Georgia’s defense also stepped up in the second half, allowing Clemson just one first down and 15 total yards in the final 30 minutes.
Clemson outgained Georgia 276-113 in the first half but still found itself in a 21-21 tie.
Clemson took the opening kickoff and marched 70 yards in 12 plays, with D.J. Howard capping the drive with a 1-yard plunge.
But Georgia struck back, scoring twice in the first quarter for a 14-7 lead on Gurley’s 23-yard run and a 2-yard run by quarterback Hutson Mason.
After three consecutive three-and-outs by Clemson, coach Dabo Swinney inserted highly touted freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson, who guided the Tigers on a six-play, 78-yard drive. Watson connected on two big throws, hitting Mike Williams for a 29-yard gain on third-and-4, then throwing a 30-yard touchdown strike to Charone Peake on the next play.
Clemson scored again on its next possession, this time under Cole Stoudt’s guidance, driving 68 yards in 10 plays and scoring on a 1-yard run by C.J. Davidson.
But Gurley returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to tie the score for a third time with 7:15 left in the first half.
Clemson kicker Ammon Lakip missed a 34-yard field goal attempt with 48 seconds left in the half after a drive that would turn out to be the Tigers’ last real threat of the game.