Todd Gurley is the best college football player in America.
Well, at least one of them, according to Georgia head coach Mark Richt.
“They just couldn’t get him on the ground,” Richt said. “They could not get him on the ground.”
Saturday, the 30th day of August and several months removed from the Heisman Trophy presentation, marked the first day of what is sure to be a thrilling campaign from Georgia’s biggest threat out of the backfield.
If Gurley’s statline — a career-high 198 rushing yards , a school record-setting 293 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns — didn’t speak for itself, Twitter spoke as well, as it often does when it comes to sports.
#Gurley4Heisman topped the list of trending topics in the United States as the seconds and minutes ticked off the game clock in Sanford Stadium during the fourth quarter of the Bulldogs 45-21 over Clemson. But it was thirteen short seconds of game time in the second quarter that caught the ever-critical eye of the Internet.
It was a play that warranted not criticism, but rather excessive amounts of praise. Clemson’s Bradley Pinion sent a 65-yard kickoff hurling towards Gurley who stood patiently in his own end zone. He’d had a shot at a kick return early in the first quarter but had to settle for a touchback. Such would not be the case the second time around, he told sophomore tailback Brendan Douglas.
“I told him the next time I get one I’m taking it out,” Gurley said.
He hadn’t done so since his freshman debut against Buffalo two years ago, but so what? The ball soared over the goal line and into his arms. Just over 100 yards and 13 seconds later, Gurley was in the end zone.
“I knew somebody was behind me but I just wanted to keep running and running,” Gurley said. “I don’t know how long it was, but it was long.”
He was left relatively untouched on that return, as he was on a 23-yard touchdown run on Georgia’s second drive of the game. But it was the runs where Gurley found himself snaking through and shaking off defenders, forcing his way over white jerseys like a bowling ball crashing through pins that had Richt speaking so highly of him.
His teammates were quick to agree.
“I can’t say I’ve seen a better football player in college football in a long time,” senior center David Andrews said. “He’s just got a way of taking over the game. You feed off his energy and he’s got a lot of it and we just knew we had to get him going.”
Gurley certainly got going in the second half. But to Andrews’ and offensive line’s credit, they were getting him through all 15 of his carriers.
“it’s easy for y’all to focus on Todd, but if the offensive line didn’t execute and do their job, Todd’s not going to run for however many yards he ran and all those touchdowns,” redshirt senior quarterback Hutson Mason said. “It’s a team effort. That offensive line was phenomenal tonight.”
Andrews knows the tailbacks behind him always appreciate the offensive line’s blocking. Gurley likes to show his gratitude in the form of cake, like the chocolate cake he brought to camp this summer. Andrews prefers ice cream cake, but hey, cake is cake.
“He takes care of us,” Andrews said. “He’s a special guy. He doesn’t let all this get to his head; he knows he needs everyone.”
Gurley won’t let “one of the best games [he’s] been a part of” get to his head. It’s only Week 1, and the Bulldogs have “like, 15 more weeks to go,” as he phrased it. But based on his performance Saturday night, the hype from both fans and teammates is well deserved.
“God did a little something extra on him,” Andrews said.