ATHENS — Georgia senior Jordan Davis enjoyed a magical homecoming Saturday night, spearheading a Bulldogs’ defense that smothered Clemson on the national stage.
Davis, playing in his hometown of Charlotte, N.C., anchored a defensive front from his nose tackle position that held the Tigers to just 2 yards rushing on 23 attempts in the 10-3 victory.
Safety Christopher Smith had the oil painting moment, a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown.
But the lasting takeaway most everyone will have is of how Bulldogs’ dominant defensive front wreaked havoc on Clemson offense that was limited to 180 yards after putting up 400 yards or more in the previous 12 games.
“Two on me means somebody’s free,” Davis said in an ESPN postgame interview. I know that’s going to free up a linebacker or another defensive lineman.”
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy — considered the “Defensive Heisman” — is also awarded annually in Charlotte, N.C.
Davis punched his ticket to be considered for the prestigious award by winning the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Davis had three tackles — two for loss, including a clutch quarterback sack — despite the constant double teams.
Kirby Smart said part of the reason Davis elected to come back for his senior season was to play in the Top 5-showdown with Clemson in the city where he grew up.
“I think It was great for him to go back to Charlotte and have a good game, because it’s home to him and his mom still lives there and works and his little brother is there,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “It meant a lot to him to go back, a lot of the reason he decided to come back, he wanted to have a big game.”
Smart takes special pride in Davis, who he recruited out of Mallard Creek High School, developing him from 3-star status (No. 424-ranked player n the nation) to the preeminent interior defensive lineman in the nation.
“Jordan has been tremendous, he’s worked really hard,” Smart said. “If he continues to work and keep his weight down, and that’s part of staying humble, is continuing to work and be explosive and affect teams in the pass game.
“Obviously he’s a space-eater and a dominant guy against the run. He’s hard to move.”
Smart said Georgia believes the ideal weight for the 6-foot-6 Davis ie between 340 and 345 pounds, but the goal is to maximize his stamina.
“It’s not the weight that concerns me as much as the stamina — stamina is more important than weight alone,” Smart explained. “If he can play 15 or 20 snaps in a row at 350 or 330 or whatever it is …. We’d like to think that (ideal weight) is around 340 or 345, that’s what we try to work with him on.”
In the meantime, offensive coordinators will be working on game plans that involve occupying No. 99.
Georgia has registered 16 sacks in the past two games against allegedly mobile quarterbacks D.J. Uiagalelei and Desmond Ridder.