I don’t want to assume I know what goes on in the mind of DJ Uiagalelei.

But I’m just gonna assume that the Clemson quarterback will be seeing Georgia’s front 7 in his sleep for the foreseeable future.

Seven sacks. Too many pressures to count. No time to throw. No chance to reach the end zone.

Georgia’s defense looked like it took out 4 decades worth of frustration on Uiagalelei. Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, Nolan Smith, Adam Anderson, Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, etc. Ok, so I started naming former Dawgs instead of current ones, but didn’t it feel like everyone who wore red in black on Kirby Smart’s defense got in the backfield against Clemson?

There are wins, and then there’s what Georgia did on Saturday night.

Never mind the fact that JT Daniels and the Georgia offense really didn’t stretch the field vertically as promised (12 of his first 16 passes went 5 yards or less). Who cares that we never really saw one of the young pass-catchers break through for 6. And don’t dwell on the fact that the Dawgs won an American tackle football game in the year 2021 without scoring an offensive touchdown.

Nah. If your defense is gonna get after the quarterback like that? Forget about it.

It was a throwback win for Georgia. It was a win that could have monumental Playoff implications, as long as Clemson somehow doesn’t crawl into a hole against the lowly ACC. That, we knew entering the night. What nobody could’ve predicted was that Georgia would deliver a defensive performance more impressive than anything that 2017 runner-up squad did.

It’s easy to forget that the 2017 team was the last UGA squad to take down a top-5 foe. That is, until Saturday.

When your defense sacks a preseason Heisman favorite 7 times and allows 2 (!) rushing yards, your offense can basically trot on the field and take a knee every time.

That wasn’t the case, though. James Cook took an end-around and converted a key third down late. And when Georgia needed 1 more first down to put the game on ice, Zamir White lowered his shoulder and delivered a moment he won’t soon forget back in his home state of North Carolina.

Speaking of North Carolina natives, I remember writing many times this offseason that Davis’ impact wouldn’t show up in the box score. The star UGA defensive tackle was all about taking on double teams and making plays in the ground game. His snap count was low, but his impact was high.

Yeah, about that. Davis had 2 tackles for loss and a sack. It seemed like he lived in the backfield. Should we have known that Davis would deliver that type of effort? Perhaps.

We should’ve definitely known it was going to be a long night for Uiagalelei when Smith took him down on a 3-man rush deep in Clemson territory:

It was almost like every potential breakout star in the front 7 had a breakout performance. Remember hearing all that buzz about Anderson and Dean dominating in a limited sample size? Both of them harassed Uiagalelei, and they had a combined 3 sacks.

It was a complete turnaround from the last 3 times that Georgia faced an elite offense.

Check that. We don’t know that Clemson is going to be an elite offense. We assume. It was also fair to assume that Georgia might surrender some big plays after getting lit up for 40-plus against 2019 LSU, 2020 Alabama and 2020 Florida. Shoot, even 2017 Oklahoma wasn’t exactly a defensive flex. It’s amazing what can happen when you get pressure on the quarterback.

I fear for the rest of Georgia’s opponents if that’s the type of pass rushing and pursuit in the ground game we’re going to see on a weekly basis. How is Georgia Tech or Mizzou gonna stop that? I couldn’t tell you.

Saturday was only 60 minutes, but it felt like so much more.

It felt like the exact type of way Georgia needed to win with all of those banged up pass-catchers after a brutal fall camp. It seemed like we saw a defense who got tired of hearing about the modernization of UGA’s offense with Daniels. Or perhaps it was a group who didn’t want to put the game in the hands of the secondary.

By the way, it was easy to forget that Georgia lost 7 members of its defensive backfield this offseason. It certainly didn’t look like it. Go figure that one of the few UGA defensive backs who did return, Christopher Smith, scored the lone touchdown of the game on a pick-6:

How did that start? Uiagalelei locked in on Justyn Ross. Even though he didn’t face pressure on that 5-man rush, he was still focused on that 1 read, and Smith jumped the route.

That was enough on Saturday. It probably won’t be enough every week. Like, when Daniels threw an interception and Clemson took over in plus territory, we shouldn’t assume that Georgia will always respond to that situation by rattling off consecutive sacks and pushing the offense out of field goal range.

But Saturday wasn’t about being perfect. It was a “by any means necessary” type of game.

There’s time to figure out the passing game. And judging what happened in Alabama’s season opener in Atlanta, it’s safe to say the Dawgs are going to need that part of the game to finally get over the Crimson hump, if and when that time comes.

For now, though, Georgia should feel good. Darn good.

Lose that game and we’re back to the “Kirby can’t win the big one” narrative. Take one on the chin and it’s “same old Georgia.”

We don’t know if the 1980 jokes will end this season. All we know is that the path to that looks a whole lot better with a Clemson win in the back pocket.

When the final seconds ticked off and Smart earned his ultimate Playoff résumé booster, he spoke to the ESPN crew about a simple message he delivered his team.

“You’re either elite or you’re not.”

Georgia’s elite, alright. No doubt about it.