Georgia defense starts three true freshmen at Clemson

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Not since Kedric Golston in 2002 had Georgia started a true freshman on defense in its season opener. On Saturday night, the Bulldogs started three.

Clemson's Tajh Boyd (center) is brought down by Georgia defenders Leonard Floyd (left) and Amarlo Herrera during Clemson's game against Georgia.   JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Clemson's Tajh Boyd (center) is brought down by Georgia defenders Leonard Floyd (left) and Amarlo Herrera during Clemson's game against Georgia.

Linebacker Leonard Floyd, cornerback Brendan Langley and safety Tray Matthews were three of Georgia’s 11 defensive starters against Clemson.

“Some guys are playing by virtue of the lack of depth and some guys are playing because they’ve earned the right to move ahead of some veteran,” coach Mark Richt said earlier this week.

NEW KICKERS: After speculation on Marshall Morgan’s status after a boating under the influence arrest this summer, it was confirmed before kickoff that he would not play. Colin Barber and Patrick Beless split punting and place-kicking duties, respectively.

RUNNING GAME: Tailback Todd Gurley picked up right where he left off from a year ago.

The talented sophomore powered for a 75-yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven early in the first quarter. Gurley left for the locker room later in the quarter with a thigh injury before returning at the start of the second quarter. Gurley posted another 41 yards before halftime. He finished the half with 116 yards and the touchdown.

HOUSTON STARTS: In what was the feel-good story of the evening, Kolton Houston earned his first collegiate start against Clemson.

Houston, the beleaguered offensive tackle from Buford, ended a three-year battle with the NCAA in July over questions regarding his eligibility.

MITCHELL INJURED: Wideout Malcolm Mitchell left the game early in the first quarter with a right knee injury.

TIGER TRACKS: Former Clemson head coach Danny Ford was inducted into the Clemson Ring of Honor before the game. Ford was coach from 1978-1989, going 96-29-4 and leading the Tigers to the national championship in 1981. Ford received a huge ovation and cheer from the Clemson fans as his name and years were unveiled up on the stadium’s ring of honor. … Clemson served as host of ESPN College Gameday for the game, the first time the Tigers have had it since Oct. 21, 2006, when Georgia Tech visited. Clemson beat the Yellow Jackets 31-7, with James Davis rushing for 216 yards and freshman C.J. Spiller adding 116 rushing yards. … When Tajh Boyd found Sammy Watkins on a 77-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, it was the longest Boyd pass and Watkins reception of their careers.

Staff writer Wayne Staats contributed to this report.

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