I said going into this one that we would learn a lot today about whether half a season was enough for Kirby Smart to start building a consistent, mentally tough football team in Athens.
The answer? Not no. Hell no.
Georgia managed to commit gaffes on offense, defense, and special teams to give Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason his first ever SEC road victory, a 17-16 stunner that left Bulldog fans confused, dejected, and mad as all get out.
It was a total team effort. The Bulldog offense amassed 421 yards of total offense, but managed to make just enough mistakes at crucial times to squander almost every one of them.
The Bulldog defense held Vandy to 171 yards of offense. But 75 of them came on a fourth quarter drive while leading 16-10, when a stop of any type may well have salted the game away.
Truth be told, the whole thing kicked off with a 92 yard kickoff return which led to an early touchdown and was the most explosive thing Vandy mustered all day. That’s why this one was so frustrating. Vanderbilt didn’t play a great game. The Commodores made mistakes. Georgia however flippantly refused to do anything about it. It was a half-assed effort which was utterly predictable, and yet equally inexcusable.
This one felt over long before Georgia’s offensive line was emasculated for the 634th time this season in failing to pick up a 4th and 1 late. Jim Chaney, channeling the spirit of 2006 Mike Bobo, shrewdly gave the ball to his 170 pound slot back rather than his 220 pound All-American candidate tailback to get one yard. There’s a fascinating explanation for that, we’ll just never hear it.
Georgia’s 75 rushing yards were their fewest at home since 2009. The Bulldog offense had 3 first half drives that covered 40+ yards and came away with two field goals from them.
On the bright side, Rodrigo Blankenship channeled his inner Billy Bennett, reliably booting three field goals without a miss. Jacob Eason looked effective when he was finally able to get into a rhythm, finishing 27 of 40 for a career high 346 yards. Marshall Long showed great touch in pinning Vanderbilt deep on multiple punts.
But it wasn’t enough. It was almost, but not quite, enough for an entire afternoon. A missed opportunity here. A dumb mistake there. A lack of intensity here, there, and everywhere. Rinse. Repeat. Lose to Vandy at home. Sigh.