Georgia got on top of Vandy early on Saturday and didn’t let up.
This week the Bulldogs didn’t need any halftime adjustments. Unlike last Saturday against Auburn or the week before against Missouri, Georgia looked crisp early on both sides of the ball. Stetson Bennett came out dealing, going 18/20 for 2 TD’s and over 200 yards in the 1st half while helping the Dawgs to a 28-0 lead.
UGA’s defense also started strong. It was 21-0 before Vanderbilt threatened to score in the 2nd quarter. The Commodores came up empty on a drive into UGA territory after Tykee Smith forced a fumble with a little over 6 minutes to go before halftime. Georgia then embarked on a ten play 85 yard TD drive that ended with a Dominick Blaylock TD reception with 1:06 to go in the 2nd quarter. Blaylock’s score put the Bulldogs up 28-0 and ensured that there would be no halftime angst for Georgia fans this week. Joseph Bulovas 44-yard field goal attempt sailed wide before the half and the Commodores never threatened to put points on the board again.
This was the type of performance that should calm some of the nerves that have been lingering in Bulldog Nation since UGA’s narrow escape against Missouri. Yes, this is Vanderbilt… But the Commodores put up 28 on Ole Miss last week and lead the Rebels at the half. The Commodores have been a solid offensive team for much of the year, but the Bulldogs beat Vandy 579-150 in the total yardage battle today. That 429 yard discrepancy was the largest in any game this season for Georgia.
After putting in a good day’s work Georgia’s starters enjoyed a 4th quarter where UGA’s depth was on display. “When the 2’s and the 3’s get to play… I always love that because it means we put on a pretty good game. I mean there’s always room for improvement, but overall it was a pretty good game,” said linebacker Rian Davis to Dawgs Central in his postgame interview.
As for the offense, Carson Beck lead two straight touchdown drives in the 4th quarter. The first ended in a 24-yard TD catch by Dillon Bell. The second ended in a 4-yard TD reception by Arik Gilbert. The catch by Gilbert got the whole UGA sideline buzzing.
“It was great, man… Great for that kid confidence wise and just try to give him something to celebrate and be happy about,” said Kirby Smart to reporters after the game. Georgia’s head coach wasn’t the only one happy for Gilbert. UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett cracked a smile when he was asked about Gilbert’s touchdown.
Gilbert’s presence in the game drove home what was already obvious during the first three quarters- Georgia’s depth is ridiculous compared to a team like Vanderbilt. Nothing illustrates what an embarrassment of riches is available to the Bulldogs coaching staff quite like bringing a former 5-Star recruit like Gilbert into the game at tight-end after already playing Darnell Washington, Brock Bowers and Oscar Delp.
Georgia’s tight ends were one of the big stories of the day. Bowers was targeted 5 times in the game, and while he and Bennett did link up for a well executed 12-yard catch on a route down the sideline on a third and long in the first half, Vanderbilt did a pretty good job of holding #19 in check. The Commodores penetrated Georgia’s blocking well when they tried to get Bowers the ball on screens and end-around plays. However, Vanderbilt did not hold Darnell Washington in check.
“The Big O” pulled down 4 catches for 78 yards on the day. Washington ran a nice route to the sticks on a 3rd & long early in the 3rd quarter when lined up on the boundary against man coverage. Bennett put the ball at Washington’s eye level and the Vandy cornerback never had a chance of getting around the 270 pounder to break up the pass. Later in the drive Washington speared a ball out of the air with one hand when surrounded by Commodore defenders on the sideline. “It’s like throwing to the Pacific Ocean,” said Bennett about targeting Washington. With AD Mitchell still out, Washington’s emergence as a threat on the boundary could be key for Georgia as they head towards November.
Looking ahead towards November was hard not to do on this day.
In two weeks the Dawgs will go to Jacksonville for their annual battle against Florida. After that, Tennessee will come to Athens. That matchup was already being hyped as a big one, but it feels like it could be one of the biggest games of the college football season after the Vols win over Alabama today. As for Georgia, it looks like they might be on the way to peaking at the right time.
Mitchell was dressed out in pads again today and could be ready to play again by the time UGA faces Florida after a bye week. Freshman Dillon Bell showed today that the X-Receiver position is in good hands until he returns. The youngster from Houston had his best day as a Bulldog with 5 catches for 54 yards and a TD. Arian Smith didn’t have a reception, but he looked very good when on the field. Smith was running a variety of routes and did a nice job creating separation on a few different plays. Watching him from the press box, it felt like a breakout game may come soon.
The shaky run fits that reared their heads against Kent State and Missouri haven’t been seen the last two weeks. Georgia held Vanderbilt to 45 yards rushing and less than 2 yards a carry even without Jalen Carter in the lineup.
Still, there are things that UGA can improve. It wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard, but Kelee Ringo misplayed a ball down the sideline that would have been a touchdown if not for a Will Sheppard drop. Daylen Everette was subbed in for Kamari Lassiter on the drive before halftime after Lassiter gave up a couple catches to Sheppard. Smart said that Lassiter had a “communication issue.” On another play UGA’s secondary failed to pickup a Vanderbilt receiver on the sideline. A better offense could make Georgia pay for those mistakes down the road, but those are worries for another day.
For today, Georgia is a 55-0 winner that remains on the ever dwindling list of college football’s unbeaten teams. That’s a nice way to cruise into the bye week.