It's hard to get in a knock down, drag out fight with an opponent who falls to the canvas after the first couple of right jabs. On Saturday night in Athens, James Franklin proved conclusively that you can talk all you want about culture change. All that goes out the window when a physically superior football team punches you square in the mouth and you simply don't respond. Culture, schmulture. To continue my movie-themed commenting from the open comment thread, and to paraphrase Smokey from Friday, you, Vanderbilt Commodores, got knocked the freak out. Everything else is just elaboration, which I will gladly provide after the jump.
I cannot remember the last time that a Georgia offense came out and executed a flawless, focused drive to start the game. And in sharp contrast to the Georgia team we've seen jump on opponents early and then take the foot off the gas just as quickly, they kept pressing the whoopass button. That's the sign of a veteran team.
Aaron Murray did the exact opposite of what I, among others, have so maligned him for: starting important games by looking overexcited and jittery. Instead Murray hit on each of his first 12 pass attempts, surgically delivering key 3rd down conversions and touchdown strikes. He finished the game 18 of 24 for 250 yards and 2 touchdown strikes. It was the type of workmanlike effort you want to see from a third year starter. If you can find something to complain about in his effort, you're a better man than I, Gunga Din. The Bulldog offense racked up 303 total yards in the first half to the Commodores' 136. That's a decided advantage, one made even more decided by the absence of a single Bulldog turnover.
Marlon Brown continues to enjoy a breakout senior season, catching 5 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He was joined in carving up the Commodore defense by fellow senior Tavarres King, whose 4 catches for 58 yards and a score keep him in second place on the Bulldog season receiving charts behind Michael Bennett. Bennett , the Bulldogs' leading receiver, had a quiet 2 catch, 10 yard night. It didn't matter. The thing we've seen this season from the Georgia receiving corps, the thing we saw a faint glimmer of last year, is depth perhaps unseen in red and black since the days of Hastings, Graham, Hunter, and Ward. Of course, any collegiate receiver can look good when catching passes from a QB who just can't miss. And for much of the night tonight, Aaron Murray just couldn't miss.
In fairness, some of Murray's hot start can be traced to the fact that the Vanderbilt defense was trying anything and everything to stop the Bulldog running attack. This was the first time all season, including games against the lowly Buffalo Bulls and the friggin' Florida Atlantic Owls that the Bulldog offensive line has taken its stance and simply bulldozed an opponent. There will come games later in this season, perhaps as early as next week, when we'll need to line up and just convert 3rd and 3's with a power running game.
Todd Gurley led all Georgia runners with 16 carries for 130 yards. But that doesn't even begin to tell the story of how dominant the Georgia running game was. Four Bulldogs (Gurley, Keith Marshall, Ken Malcome, and Richard Samuel) all had at least 5 carries. None averaged fewer than 5.4 yards per attempt. Through the first 3 quarters, Bulldog tailbacks had a total of 3 rushes for negative yardage, out of 34 attempts. None lost more than 1 single, solitary yard. On the game the Classic City Canines ran the ball 47 times, as well they should have. Vanderbilt gave them no reason to do anything else. For the first time since at least 2007 it looks like a Mike Bobo-coordinated offense may be able to just line up and run the hell over people when they want to. I cannot express how happy that makes me.
Speaking of Mike Bobo, we'd heard during the offseason last year that he traveled out to consult with some of the coaches who perfected the "pistol" set commonly attributed to Nevada coach Chris Ault. I've been a huge fan of the pistol for years, for many of the same reasons that Chris Brown of Smart Football isolates. I like Mike Bobo's use of it because it gives Aaron Murray a chance to see the defense while still allowing Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to run downhill. Kudos to Senor Bobo. 568 yards of total offense is nothing to sneeze at in any SEC game. If you're just itching for a nit to pick, may I suggest the merely human 50% (6 of 12) conversion rate on 3rd down? That's the best I've got in terms of complaints on offense.
The defense was vulnerable only to the occasional slant route, and while it bent several times never really broke. The Bulldog front 7 dominated the Commodores all night, getting a push that would have been all the more apparent had Vandy not gotten away with some pretty nice holding calls. Really, if you're Jarvis Jones, you just have to plan on being held on every play at this point. And as Jordan Rodgers learned, even with that there's no guarantee of safety. The Commodores racked up 336 of the most pointless yards of offense you'll ever see. Other than a first half drive that ended in a field goal and a second half Jordan Rodgers lunge for the goal line culminating in a fumble and turnover, Vandy mounted no serious offensive threats. Jordan Jenkins and Amarlo Herrera continued to look very impressive on their young Bulldog careers, affirming that while the bulldog defense will be depleted in 2013, the cupboard won't be entirely bare.
But 2013 is a long way away. For now, the Bulldogs will play host next Saturday afternoon to a Tennessee team that pulled away late this week for a decisive win against . . . Akron. As a Bulldog fan of subtlety advancing age, I can't help but remember 2004. Can this Bulldog team avoid the hype and refuse to read its own press clippings before a critical showdown with the Vols? I hope so. And I can't wait for next Saturday. I think I speak for the entire staff here at Dawg Sports when I say, we'll see you here then. Until later, let the Chapel Bell ring, and . . .