If all you saw was the score of Georgia's road victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores you could be forgiven for thinking that it was a case of a top 10 team handling an inferior opponent in solid but unspectacular fashion.
And to some extent you'd be right. Georgia never trailed in this game. In fact by the second quarter the lead never dipped below double figures. The Georgia defense was generally dominating, not allowing Vanderbilt inside the Bulldog 10 yard line until halfway through the fourth quarter. The Bulldog offense committed no turnovers (pushing Mark Richt's record in games without a giveaway to 37-2).
And there were sterling individual performances all over the field. Nick Chubb's 189 rushing yards on only 19 carries was Chubb-esque. Jordan Jenkins was borderline unblockable for much of the afternoon, finishing with 11 tackles, 5.5 of them for lost yardage. That's the most TFL by a Bulldog defender since Charles Grant tallied 6 against Auburn in 2001.
For most of this game the Bulldogs were in control, if not impressive. Then with 7 minutes to go it was as if they took their eye off the ball (literally and figuratively), allowing a Vanderbilt offense that had tallied only 169 yards through 3 quarters to tally 231 in one, abysmal stanza of football. Before linebacker Jake Ganus tallied a clutch end zone interception, Vanderbilt was down 24-14 with a shot to pull within a field goal in a game which saw Georgia up 24-6 with the ball in the fourth quarter. But Ganus did make a highlight pick (his third in his college career but his first as a Bulldog after transferring from UAB). And then Dominick Sanders made another, returning his pick 88 yards for touchdown to finally put this one to bed.
It was uglier than the 31-14 final score telegraphs. But it wasn't even close to the worst performance a heavily-favored Georgia team has pulled out in Nashville. It certainly wasn't the worst performance on the day by a heavily-favored SEC team. But this game affirmed that the Bulldog coaches and players have work to do before the South Carolina Gamecocks and their loud-mouthed, shirtless leader come to town for next Saturday's 6: p.m. kickoff. A few initial thoughts:
- Greyson Lambert's 11 of 21 passing, 116 yard effort was just not good enough. He and Brian Schottenheimer know that. I don't think however that it's indicative of his potential. Sometimes you see a quarterback just unable to quite get in rhythm, and that was the story of Lambert's first half. Some of his five first half incompletions weren't perfect throws. But he also suffered from drops from the likes of Nick Chubb and Jeb Blazevich that didn't do him any favors. It wasn't as if Schottenheimer was calling difficult throws. It was that the Red and Black offense did not execute the ones that were called. That has to improve.
- As stated repeatedly in this space, Nick Chubb is a manimal. Half man, half football-toting animal. But his day was a real anomaly. Only four times since the year 2000 has an FBS running back talked that many yards without scoring a rushing touchdown. This one broke Chubb's streak of eleven straight games with a touchdown. Oh well. Time to start over.
- I'd be curious to find out whether the Commodore coaching staff called that pooch kick recovered in the fourth before the play, or if it was an adjustment to Georgia's set (with everyone up for the onside kick and only one man deep). You can't really fault the Bulldog coaches for anticipating the onside kick there. But it was a gutsy call well-executed on the part of the boys from Nashville.
- Marshall Morgan's performance was perhaps the most worrisome of the day for me, with two missed field goals (one of which was just an ugly shank). There'll come a game this season when those 6 points could have sunk us. This one looked like that game for a period in the 4th. Let's hope he got it out of his system.
- I'm pretty sure the Vanderbilt staff didn't plan for Johnny McCrary to throw the ball 50 times today. But the Georgia defense was just too strong against the run. The Commodores finished with 39 attempts for a paltry 105 yards, less than 2.7 per attempt.
- As iffy as things got there for a few moments, Arkansas and Auburn fans would have traded us straight up.
- I for one had a splendid time at the 6th Annual Dawg Sports Sacrificial Goat Roast. Thanks to all who made it out, those who helped organize the shindig, and the folks at the Blind Pig Tavern for essentially turning over half their restaurant to us and ignoring our strange behavior.
Podunkdawg will be along shortly with the Mark Richt Victory Watch. Until then feel free to use this thread to provide your assessment of today's game and to discuss tonight's remaining college football action.