It’s not often you see a team on the business end of a 31-14 final walk away saying, “Man, we let that one get away.” But that’s the case for Derek Mason and Vanderbilt after the ‘Dores dropped a 17-point decision to No. 10 Georgia in Nashville Saturday.
First, let’s examine how Georgia secured its 31 points. Isaiah McKenzie opened the scoring with a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown at the 4:33 mark of the first quarter. The Bulldogs held the lead through the first half, but the score would have been 7-6 at the break had Vanderbilt safety Oren Burks not allowed a Greyson Lambert pass to split his wide-open hands. Sony Michel raced in from 31 yards on the very next snap.
Vanderbilt drove the field in an attempt to pull within 14-9 at the half, but Tommy Openshaw‘s 43-yard field goal try doinked off the left upright.
Georgia officially put the game away in the third quarter with a 20-yard Marshall Morgan field goal and a five-yard Lambert run, pushing the edge to 24-6, but Vanderbilt made things interestin in the fourth quarter… until they didn’t.
After a missed 43-yard Morgan field goal try, Vanderbilt marched 71 yards in nine plays until an ill-advised four-yard scramble by Commodores quarterback Johnny McCrary on a goal-to-go situation from the Georgia eight. Vanderbilt forced a three-and-out and immediately moved 42 yards in five plays, capped by a seven-yard strike from McCrary to Latevius Reyford and then a McCrary run to pull the ‘Dores within 24-14.
Vanderbilt uncovered the ensuing kickoff, but McCrary gave the ball right back to Georgia at the Bulldogs’ 20. After another Georgia punt, Vanderbilt moved to the Bulldogs’ 28 before he was again intercepted, and Dominick Sanders returned the pigskin 88 yards to put an exclamation point on the ballgame.
Add it all up and you get three interceptions (including one for a touchdown), a missed field goal and a missed interception and a punt return touchdown surrendered in a game where Vanderbilt managed to control the ball (89 to 66 total plays, five more minutes of possession, two more first downs).
Vanderbilt limited Lambert for much of the day. He was held without a completed pass in the first half, getting himself pulled in favor of sophomore Brice Ramsey for the Bulldogs’ final first half drive, and completed 11-of-21 passes for only 116 yards on the day. Nick Chubb, as he’s done since he first stepped on the field, carried the Georgia offense with 19 carries for 189 yards. Michel was also a key contributor with 86 yards and a touchdown on 14 touches.
McCrary completed 24-of-50 throws for 295 yards with a touchdown and three picks. Ralph Webb led Vanderbilt in rushing with 25 carries for 68 yards.
For Georgia it was their 19th win in their last 21 tries against Vanderbilt and third win in their last four SEC openers.
The Bulldogs (2-0, 1-0 SEC) return home to face South Carolina next week, while Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-1 SEC) hosts Austin Peay.