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Georgia 30, Vanderbilt 6: This could have been much worse

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Vanderbilt’s defense at least sort of figured things out. The offense, well...

NCAA Football: Georgia at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Five Factors Box Score

Five Factors Vanderbilt Georgia
Five Factors Vanderbilt Georgia
Plays 62 62
Total Yards 225 483
Yards Per Play 3.6 7.8
Rushing Attempts 28 39
Rushing Yards 138 326
Rushing YPP 4.9 8.4
Passing Attempts 34 23
Passing Yards 87 157
Passing YPP 2.6 6.8
Rushing Success 50.00% 64.10%
Passing Success 20.60% 43.50%
Success Rate 33.90% 56.50%
Avg. Field Position 21.6 32.8
PP40 2 3.75
Turnovers 1 1

In what’s becoming an annual tradition, Georgia fans took to the internet after Saturday night’s game to complain that the Bulldogs’ 30-6 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores shouldn’t have been as close as it was — which is a very weird thing to say about a game that ended with a 30-6 final score (or last year’s 41-13 final), and yet here we are.

The nicest thing that you can say about the game from Vanderbilt’s perspective is that the Commodores didn’t allow this to become a complete debacle like the 59-0 loss to Alabama in 2017 — which, frankly, is where this looked like it was headed after Georgia’s first three drives of the game. Through three drives, Georgia’s offense had run 25 plays and gained 244 yards and had a ghastly 80 percent success rate (for those new to this feature, a play is defined as a success if it gains 50 percent of the remaining yardage to gain on 1st down, 70 percent on 2nd down, and 100 percent on 3rd or 4th down.) Vanderbilt’s first two drives saw the Commodores run 14 plays for 34 yards; the Commodores had a 35.7 percent success rate.

The game didn’t get completely out of hand, if only because Vanderbilt’s defense figured out how to get some stops at the right moment. Georgia had eight scoring chances (defined as gaining a first down inside the other team’s 40) and scored 30 points; Vanderbilt held the Bulldogs to a field goal on three drives, forced a turnover on another, and stuffed D’Andre Swift on 4th-and-1 on the last one. The offense, though, never did figure it out. A 20.6 percent passing success rate is not something you see every day; the Commodores had a bit more success running the football, but “success” here is relative: Vanderbilt still just had a 50 percent rushing success rate and averaged just 4.9 yards per carry.

(As an aside, if the stats above look different from the “official” stats, I count sacks as passing plays. Taking out two sacks that resulted in a loss of 22 yards makes the rushing stats look better — though it also makes the passing stats look worse.)

Oh, yeah, and Georgia also dominated field position in spite of the best efforts of Vanderbilt punter Harrison Smith, who really does look like a good find as a walk-on out of nearby Brentwood. This was a thorough domination that is only slightly mitigated by the fact that there is a good chance Georgia is going to make most teams look like this.

That, and in spite of being 0-1, the schedule seemed to open up quite a bit on Friday and Saturday. Vanderbilt’s eight remaining Power 5 opponents went 2-5 (Florida played last weekend) and only LSU looks like a good team. Meanwhile, Ole Miss looked like a dumpster fire, Tennessee somehow looked even worse than that, Missouri lost at Wyoming, South Carolina lost to North Carolina (which went 2-10 last season and then hired 68-year-old Mack Brown), Purdue lost to Nevada, and Kentucky struggled to put away Toledo. Vanderbilt will probably lose to the two remaining Top 10 opponents on the schedule, but every other game looks much more winnable than it did on Thursday night.

Individual Stats

Passing stats

Passing Comp Att Comp % Yds TD INT Sacks Yds Lost Net Yds Success Rate YPP
Passing Comp Att Comp % Yds TD INT Sacks Yds Lost Net Yds Success Rate YPP
Riley Neal 14 25 56.00% 87 0 0 2 22 65 18.50% 2.4
Deuce Wallace 2 6 33.30% 24 0 0 0 0 24 33.30% 4
Cam Johnson 0 1 0.00% 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00% 0

The nicest thing you can say about Riley Neal’s debut is that he didn’t throw any interceptions and he completed 56 percent of his passes. I’m not quite ready to declare a live controversy at the quarterback position, if only because (a) Georgia, and (b) I don’t know what the plan was here. Was the plan to make a conscious effort to avoid challenging Georgia’s defense with the downfield passing game? If so, hard to blame the quarterback because the game plan was stupid. Was this a result of a patchwork offensive line that was missing starting left tackle Devin Cochran and starting left guard Saige Young, and was breaking in a new center and had redshirt freshmen starting on the right side? It’s also hard to blame the quarterback for that. (And the snap issues...)

On the other hand, if this is just a quarterback being scared of throwing downfield — and that’s frankly not something that should be an issue with a fifth-year senior who started at Ball State — then fire away. I want to see what this looks like when facing Purdue’s defense (which, after all, just gave up 34 points to Nevada on Friday night) before I return a verdict on this. I do, however, have to point out the irony in half of Vanderbilt Twitter (and the comments section here) demanding that Mason do the thing that they previously insisted he absolutely not do: switch quarterbacks.

I have no real thoughts on the one drive that Deuce Wallace led, if only because it came at a point when Georgia wasn’t terribly interested in doing anything other than getting out of there. Had one of the shots he took at the end zone connected, the chorus wanting him to be the starter would probably be a lot louder than it currently is.

Rushing stats

Rushing Att Yds YPA TD Success Rate
Rushing Att Yds YPA TD Success Rate
Ke'Shawn Vaughn 15 74 4.9 0 46.70%
Riley Neal 7 19 2.7 0 42.90%
Mitchell Pryor 2 11 5.5 0 50.00%
Justice Shelton-Mosley 1 23 23 0 100.00%
Jamauri Wakefield 1 7 7 0 100.00%
Dashaun Jerkins 1 3 3 0 100.00%

Nothing wrong with what Ke’Shawn Vaughn did under the circumstances; the one real knock was that he didn’t break any really big runs. In fact, the longest play of the night for Vanderbilt was a 23-yard run by Justice Shelton-Mosley on a reverse. I do have to say that I was impressed with Gerry Gdowski’s willingness to break out some trick plays; and if you’re wondering why safety Dashaun Jerkins is here, he ran the ball on the fake punt Vanderbilt called in the first quarter.

It’s also encouraging that while Vaughn only got 15 carries, that was the entirety of the non-garbage time carries for Vanderbilt running backs. Jamauri Wakefield’s one carry and walk-on Mitchell Pryor’s two carries both came on the last drive of the game.

Receiving stats

Receiving Targets Catches Yds TD Catch Rate Yds/Target Yds/Catch Success Rate
Receiving Targets Catches Yds TD Catch Rate Yds/Target Yds/Catch Success Rate
Kalija Lipscomb 7 3 8 0 42.90% 1.1 2.7 14.30%
Ke'Shawn Vaughn 5 3 24 0 60.00% 4.8 8 20.00%
C.J. Bolar 5 2 13 0 40.00% 2.6 6.5 20.00%
James Bostic 4 1 8 0 25.00% 2 8 25.00%
Jared Pinkney 3 2 11 0 66.70% 3.7 5.5 33.30%
Justice Shelton-Mosley 2 1 5 0 50.00% 2.5 5 0.00%
Chris Pierce 1 1 16 0 100.00% 16 16 100.00%
Jamauri Wakefield 1 1 10 0 100.00% 10 10 0.00%
Cam Johnson 1 1 5 0 100.00% 5 5 0.00%
Amir Abdur-Rahman 1 0 0 0 0.00% 0 0.00%

We complained last year about Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s usage, and counting the five receiving targets he got, Vaughn’s number was called on 20 of Vanderbilt’s 54 offensive plays prior to the final drive of the game. Vaughn also led the team in receiving yards.

That said, Kalija Lipscomb and Jared Pinkney combined for 19 yards — which probably had more to do with the quarterback play than it did with them (unfortunately the box score doesn’t tell us how many of the seven balls thrown to Lipscomb were actually catchable.)

Notes

  • Per the box score, Vanderbilt started three defensive linemen and four linebackers, so maybe that hubbub about switching to a 4-3 was for nothing.
  • None of the eleven defensive starters were a surprise, by the way. Dayo Odeyingbo, Drew Birchmeier, and Cameron Tidd were the starting linemen; Andre Mintze, Feleti Afemui, Brayden DeVault-Smith, and Kenny Hebert were the starting linebackers. Cam Watkins and DC Williams started at cornerback; Dashaun Jerkins and Tae Daley were the starting safeties. Jerkins started in place of the injured Frank Coppet.
  • Dashaun Jerkins also led the team in tackles on Saturday night with 14, in addition to a fumble recovery, so it’s no guarantee that the redshirt freshman will surrender his starting spot once Coppet is healthy. (That said, a safety having 14 tackles doesn’t sound great.)
  • If the participation report is correct, two true freshmen played on Saturday night: DT Daevion Davis and CB Jaylen Mahoney. I would expect that the coaching staff has no intentions of redshirting Davis, who may be a starter on the defensive line sooner rather than later. Mahoney might be ticketed for a four-game redshirt.
  • Aside from the players who we know were injured (Devin Cochran, Saige Young, Sean McMoore, and Frank Coppet), here’s a non-exhaustive list of notable players who didn’t see the field on Saturday night: Ja’Veon Marlow, Colin Anderson, Alston Orji, Eddie Zinn-Turner, Malik Langham (and no update on his eligibility, by the way), Cody Markel, Josiah Sa’o, Jonathan Stewart, Stone Edwards.

What’s Next

Vanderbilt will look to bounce back at Purdue on Saturday. Game time is 11:00 AM CT and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.