Rapid Reaction: No. 2 Georgia uses big plays to get past pesky Vanderbilt
It wasn’t always pretty, but it was mostly effective as the No. 2-ranked Georgia Bulldogs remained unbeaten with a convincing 41-13 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday night in Athens.
It was the Bulldogs’ big-play ability that once against set them apart from their opponent. The Bulldogs have won all six games by at least 14 points and have scored at least 38 points in every game.
There was one new thing Saturday night. Georgia trailed for the first time all season when Vanderbilt’s Ryley Guay kicked a 25-yard field goal at 10:30 in the first quarter.
The deficit lasted all of 15 seconds.
On Georgia’s ensuing play, quarterback Jake Fromm sold play-action well and then found senior wide receiver Terry Godwin deep over the middle. He beat two defenders to make the catch, then fought them off inside the 10-yard line to get into the end zone.
It was nice to see Godwin have an impact. He’s only had four catches for 48 yards all season coming into the game as other playmakers have passed him by in the wide receiver rotation. The 75-yard score was a career long for a guy who’s made at least 35 catches in each of his first three years. He also had a nice 20-yard grab along the sideline late in the third quarter.
Much of the first half was eerily similar to the ugly 17-16 loss to Vanderbilt in 2016 during Kirby Smart’s first year at Georgia. Vandy’s defense frustrated the Dawgs much of the half and it wasn’t until midway through the second quarter that the Dawgs built a little cushion. That’s when Elijah Holyfield, who again got the start at running back, finished an 8-play, 86-yard drive with an impressive 24-yard touchdown run around the right side to make it 14-3.
Fromm’s two-minute drill prior to halftime was a thing of beauty. He marched the Bulldogs downfield quickly on the 6-play 75-yard drive, and sealed it with a throw to Riley Ridley, who made a great adjustment in the end zone to come down with the 10-yard scoring pass to make it 21-6. Fromm was good all night long, finishing with 276 yards and 3 TDs on 17-of-23 passing.
Running back D’Andre Swift made an athletic play for Georgia’s fourth touchdown, catching a ball in the flat from Fromm and then making a great move to two to beat Vanderbilt defenders on his way to the end zone for a 35-yard score early in the third quarter. Swift had his most productive night of the year, getting 50 yards rushing and 49 yards receiving.
Even Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship got into the big-play party. He nailed a 53-yard field goal late in the third quarter that was his longest since the Rose Bowl last year. He added a 28-yarder later in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs kept plenty of pressure on Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur all night, and the harassment started right from the opening drive, when they batted down two passes and forced a three-and-out. Shurmur had some success moving the ball and made a lot of impressive throws into tight windows, but finishing drives was difficult.
Vanderbilt had three impressive drives in the first half, but they ended with two field goals and a failed fourth-down attempt. It wasn’t enough, the three points here and there, when Georgia was scoring touchdowns.
Vanderbilt was able to run the ball well at times. Ke’Shawn Vaughn had a 43-yard run and Khari Blasingame broke free for a 19-yard gain. Vaughn finished with 79 yards rushing to lead the way.
Next up for Georgia is a difficult road test at LSU. The No. 5-ranked Tigers are sure to fall in the polls though after losing 27-19 at Florida on Saturday. It was the Tigers’ first loss of the season. The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET. Georgia is the lone remaining unbeaten team in the SEC East after Kentucky’s overtime loss at Texas A&M.
Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-2 in the SEC) hosts Florida on Saturday in a Noon ET start.