In the first half of Saturday night’s game against Georgia, Vanderbilt seemed to have the right game plan to at least put a scare into the Bulldogs. After the teams traded punts on their first drives, Vanderbilt got down the field in a hurry after a 43-yard run by Ke’Shawn Vaughn, but had to settle for a field goal after Khari Blasingame got stuffed on 3rd-and-1 at the Georgia 5.
That was the story of the first half. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s oft-criticized ball control offense was working in the first half, except when it wasn’t. Vanderbilt had a 12-play, 81-yard drive that drained 7:36 off the clock — and ended it with no points when Blasingame couldn’t quite move the chains on a 4th-and-1 run. An 11-play, 51-yard drive took 5:31 off the clock and ended with a 42-yard field goal by Ryley Guay. Still, while Georgia hit a couple of big plays to score touchdowns, Vanderbilt found itself down just 14-6 with a couple of minutes left in the first half.
And then the dream died. Georgia’s Jake Fromm needed just 1:04 to move his team 75 yards and score a touchdown to make it 21-6 heading into halftime. The Bulldogs got the ball to start the second half — a fact that appeared to be lost on Vanderbilt when the Commodores decided to call a couple of vanilla run plays to run out the clock after taking over with 1:14 left in the first half — and promptly unleashed an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that made the score 28-6 and effectively ended any hope that Vanderbilt had of winning the game or even keeping things interesting. And the offensive fire that was present in the first half dissipated after halftime; Vanderbilt’s first three drives of the second half saw the Commodores run 10 plays that netted a grand total of 21 yards. The Commodores’ lone touchdown of the game came with two seconds left, after backup QB Mo Hasan led a drive against Georgia’s backups and Josh Crawford found the end zone from two yards out.
Vanderbilt was always going to have to play a perfect game to have a prayer against Georgia, and the Commodores played nothing close to that. Vanderbilt had four (!) illegal formation penalties, which is something that’s barely acceptable for a middle school football team, much less one that plays college football in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt was penalized nine times for 69 yards and went 3-for-12 on third down, and 0-for-1 on fourth down.
(And let’s not talk about Kyle Shurmur appearing to come up hurt after getting hit in a game that was already 41-6. Let’s just not.)