My life, when it is written, will read better than it lived.
King Henry II
The Lion in Winter
So it is with the Georgia Bulldogs’ victory in chilly Nashville over the Vanderbilt Commodores earlier this afternoon. History records that the Red and Black amassed 19 first downs to their hosts’ 16 while moving the chains on seven of their 15 third-down snaps. The statistics show that the Classic City Canines picked up 173 rushing yards on 37 carries, well outpacing the 122 yards the Music City Sailors garnered on 36 running plays. Mike Bobo, calling the game from the sideline rather than from the booth, directed an offense that came three feet shy of picking up 400 yards as Joe Cox completed 16 of 31 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns. His lone interception initially was called an incompletion and only became a turnover after review confirmed the spectacular play the defender had made. Even so, the ‘Dawgs took it away as often as they gave it away.
Willie Martinez’s defense held the Commies under 300 yards of total offense and stopped the opposition on 80 per cent of their third-down tries. Vandy’s only fourth-down conversion in three attempts came on a fake punt. Georgia held the ball for almost 33 minutes of clock time and seven Bulldogs not named Joe Cox contributed carries on the day, including leading rusher Washaun Ealey (13 carries for 71 yards).
On paper, the 34-10 effort in which the Athenians scored 17 first-half points and 17 second-half points on a Vanderbilt defense that was surrendering just 15.7 points per game, while giving up a single sustained drive on the Commodores’ opening possession of the second half, was a dominant performance over a gritty but ultimately inferior opponent. It just didn’t seem to be nearly as one-sided an affair as it looked on the final stat sheet.
It’s not that I’m deliberately curbing my enthusiasm over a win against a weak team after getting raked over the coals last week for urging an opposing fan base to curb its enthusiasm over a win against a weak team. There genuinely were problems that caused me to fret at the time; viz.:
- The Georgia offense got off to the slowest of slow starts, either turning the ball over or going three and out on each of the Bulldogs’ first three drives. Aside from A.J. Green turning a short pass into a 65-yard touchdown reception, the Red and Black didn’t have a drive of more than 15 yards in the first quarter.
- The running game was nonexistent for much of the contest. Long rushes by Washaun Ealey (33 yards), Carlton Thomas (10 yards), and Dontavious Jackson (15 and 19 yards), all in the fourth quarter and all after the ‘Dawgs had gone out in front by three scores, accounted for nearly 45 per cent of Georgia’s rushing yardage. Aside from those four long runs after the game was out of reach (two of which came on the final two plays of the contest), the Classic City Canines managed just 96 yards on the ground, which is disturbingly consistent with the 97.2 rushing yards per game the Bulldogs were averaging coming into the outing. Even with those four long runs, essentially all of which came in garbage time, Georgia still only did what everyone else has done on the ground against the Commodores: Vanderbilt was giving up 170.2 rushing yards per game entering the day. This was an average performance and nothing more.
- Some of the choices made by the coaches still cause brows to furrow throughout Bulldog Nation. Fred Munzenmaier had as many receptions as A.J. Green. Logan Gray made some curious calls on punt returns, making it even more odd that the backup quarterback was out there in the first place after Prince Miller racked up 95 yards on a pair of punt returns.
- Only the talent differential between the two schools enabled Georgia to put this game away in the end. This is a concern, since Tennessee Tech is the only team remaining on the schedule over which the Bulldogs have an edge in ability equal to the one they enjoy over the Commodores. There isn’t a Division I-A team left on the Red and Black’s slate that the Athenians can beat strictly on talent. Accordingly, the atrocious timing of Cox’s lone interception, the reality of 71 yards lost on eight penalties against the ‘Dawgs, and the fact that the defense conceded an eleven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive taking more than four minutes of clock time to let Vandy back in the game at the start of the third quarter all represent ongoing causes for concern.
In the end, it was a win, and, right now, I’ll take the W and be content with it. At the end of the day, though, all this victory proved was that Georgia has better players than Vanderbilt, a truth that was never in doubt.
If you’re looking for something good to take away from today’s victory, here it is: Georgia’s 24-point margin of victory over the Commodores was the largest since the Bulldogs beat Vanderbilt 33-3 in 2004 . . . a year in which the Red and Black went on to beat the Florida Gators. Given the vast gap in performance separating Ron Zook’s last Orange and Blue squad from the current edition of Urban Meyer’s Sunshine State Saurians, I think it’s fair to say that the foregoing parallel is a happenstance without significance. Therefore, it seems our best bet as a fan base is to say three things in summation of this win:
- Any conference win on the road is a good win.
- 4-3 is better than 3-4.
- Man, I’m glad we have an open date.
So . . . any conference win on the road is a good win. 4-3 is better than 3-4. Man, I’m glad we have an open date. Let’s leave it at that, shall we?