The Vanderbilt defense came to play on Saturday afternoon. The offense could not say the same.
The Commodores rode a strong defensive effort to keep this week's game against #9 Georgia close, but ultimately their offense couldn't capitalize on those opportunities in a 31-14 loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday. Vandy limited UGA's scoring opportunities and gave the home team a few chances to pull off the upset, but Johnny McCrary and the Vanderbilt offense failed to capitalize on their chances, dropping to 0-2 in the process.
McCrary was plagued by his receivers' drops, but still finished this game with two interceptions in UGA territory (three overall) and a 24/50 completion mark (for 295 yards) in the loss. Ralph Webb ran for 68 yards on 25 carries while his counterpart Nick Chubb broke out for 189 yards on 19 attempts. Greyson Lambert overcame an 0-7 start to finish with 116 yards on 11-21 passing.
This game got off to a slow start when the two team exchanged three-and-outs. Vanderbilt got a bit of good fortune when a botched snap took Tommy Openshaw on a 13-yard run for the team's first down. The 'Dores got bailed out again when a targeting penalty put them at the UGA 34 yard line and ejected Bulldog linebacker Lorenzo Carter from the game, but a sack on third-down forced a Vanderbilt punt. Nick Chubb took the very next play 68 yards into Commodore territory, but they couldn't capitalize; Marshall Morgan's 37-yard field goal attempt never had a chance at clearing the uprights and landed 20 yards left of the goalposts.
The 0-0 tie did not last. Openshaw blasted a punt to the UGA 23-yard line, but shoddy coverage and a potential block in the back helped spring Isaiah McKenzie for a touchdown that put the home team in a 0-7 hole. The 'Dores responded with a 38-yard drive that Openshaw capped with a 47-yard field goal to make it 3-7.
The Bulldogs turned to Chubb to keep the Commodores on their toes. He ripped off 38 yards on back-to-back carries before Greyson Lambert threw a deep pass directly into Oren Burks's hands at the VU five yard line. The converted linebacker dropped what would have been a drive-ending interception, and UGA took advantage of their extra life. Sony Michel took his team's next play 31 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-3 midway through the second quarter.
Openshaw continued his quest for MVP honors when he split the uprights with a 41-yard field goal to make it 14-6. The 'Dores forced a punt on the next possession before McCrary turned on his special two-minute drill headlights and drove the team 51 yards into UGA territory. He had a first-and-10 situation from the Georgia 25-yard line, but three straight Steven Scheu drops (one wasn't his fault) stalled this drive as time wound down. Openshaw lined up a 43-yard field goal, but his attempt bounced off the left upright to keep this game at 14-6 at the half.
The 'Dores forced a UGA punt to open the third quarter, but a badly-placed McCrary pass turned into the game's first turnover and gave Georgia the ball at the VU 42-yard line. The Bulldogs took advantage of the short field to give Marshall Morgan a gimme 21-yard field goal that made it 17-6 early in the frame. Another short field led to an easy Georgia touchdown drive - this time capped by a five-yard run from Greyson Lambert off a play-fake- that put the home team down by 18 points.
The two teams exchanged deep drives in their next two possessions, but the score remained 24-6. Lambert pushed UGA to the Vandy 25, but Morgan's 43-yard field goal attempt went wide right. The Commodores took the ensuing drive 71 yards to the Georgia three, but a false start and then a botched McCrary scramble turned the ball over on downs and ended another VU red zone possession without a single point.
Vandy took advantage of a conservative UGA offense and a second-team Bulldog defense to force a three-and-out on the next drive, then a 8-10 performance from McCrary pushed the 'Dores to a 42-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a seven-yard touchdown pass to Latevius Rayford. McCrary then ran in the two-point conversion to make it 24-14.
Vanderbilt then struck fear into the hearts of Georgia fans when a pooched kickoff took a home-team bounce and was recovered by Oren Burks at the UGA 17. The Commodores failed to capitalize, however, when McCrary's second-down pass sailed into a sea of red and was picked off by Jake Ganus. That effectively ended Vandy's comeback hopes - but Dominick Sanders drove the final nail into their coffin when he picked off the Commodore QB at the Georgia 12-yard line and ran it all the way back to the end zone to give this game a final 31-14 score.
Vanderbilt fell to 0-2 (0-1 SEC) with the loss. Georgia improved to 2-0 (1-0 SEC). The Commodores will return to Dudley Field next week when they host in-state FCS foe Austin Peay.