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Bulldogs justify red-and-black takeover of Nashville

August 31, 2019 Nashville: Georgia fans look on and celebrate a second touchdown for a 14-0 lead over Vanderbilt during the first quarter in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, August 31, 2019, in Nashville.  Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
August 31, 2019 Nashville: Georgia fans look on and celebrate a second touchdown for a 14-0 lead over Vanderbilt during the first quarter in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, August 31, 2019, in Nashville. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

The red-and-black surge that swept through the streets of Music City this week finally washed into Vanderbilt’s little bowl of a stadium Saturday.

As predicted, the 40,500-seat facility was close to three-quarters filled with fans of No. 3-ranked Georgia, validating predictions that as many as 30,000 of the Bulldogs faithful would be attending the game. It’s possible that more of that didn’t bother to come into the stadium as a red theme covered the landscape in all directions outside of the stadium.

There was a lot to be excited about as the Bulldogs not only were playing a rare SEC season opener on the road, but doing to against an opponent everybody was reasonably sure Georgia would dominate. Georgia entered the game as a 21.5-point favorite.

The Bulldogs would reward their loyal following quickly, scoring on the game’s opening drive and taking just four minutes to do so. Junior Demetris Robertson, denied a reception and receiving touchdown last season, checked off both on one play with a 3-yard score on a crossing route across the back of the end zone. That took just 3:59 off the clock.

Vandy ran six plays before having to punt the ball back, and Georgia scored again. After a holding penalty by Isaiah Wilson negated what would’ve been a 53-yard pass by Jake Fromm. But Fromm came back to Robertson for a 17-yard completion on the next play and Robertson for another 15 on an end-around. That would set-up an 18-yard score from running back James Cook around left end. With 56 seconds still remaining in the first quarter, Georgia led 14-0.

And so it went. On a day when former Georgia quarterbacks Jacob Eason (349 yards passing 4 TDs for Washington) and Justin Fields (234 yards, 4 TDs, 1 TD run for Ohio State) had big days for their new teams, Fromm was having a good one for his old one. The junior and third-year starter was 7-of-8 for 97 yards passing and a touchdown through a quarter and a half. At that point, the Bulldogs already were up 21-0.

Helped by three 15-yard personal-foul penalties, Vandy was able to get on the scoreboard with a pair of second-quarter field goals. The second one was a 46-yarder and came with just 4 seconds remaining in the half.

There was as much intrigue about who might be suiting up for the Bulldogs as anything coming into Saturday’s game. Being an SEC game, only 70 players are permitted to travel and dress out for each team. That left the Georgia coaches with some interesting decisions to make.

For instance, more walk-ons than might’ve been expected made the trip. Most notable of those was third-string quarterback Nathan Priestley, a freshman from California. He was standing in for D’Wan Mathis, the freshman signee who had to have emergency brain surgery over the summer.

The breakdown by position group ended up being eight wide receivers, including freshmen George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock and graduate transfer Lawrence Cager; 10 offensive linemen including freshmen Xavier Truss and Warren Ericson; 10 defensive linemen, including first-year players Travon Walker and Tramel Walthour; seven inside linebackers, including freshmen Nakobe Dean and Trezman Marshall; five outside linebackers, including freshman Nolan Smith; 12 defensive backs, including rookies D.J. Daniel, Lewis Cine and Tyrique Stevenson; and six running backs, including freshmen Kenny McIntosh and Zamir White and walkon Prather Hudson.

The Bulldogs also brought two walk-on long snappers in Steven Nixon and Payne Walker, a walk-on punter in Bill Rubright and a walk-on place-kicker in Brooks Buce.