5 things we learned from Georgia’s win over Vandy

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Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm talks about the win over Vanderbilt Saturday night. Video by Chip Towers.

The two best things that happened Saturday for the No. 3-ranked Georgia Bulldogs were, of course, that they won the opener, 30-6, over Vanderbilt and that they left the Music City relatively intact from an injury standpoint.

Only two Bulldogs left Vanderbilt Stadium with any sort of question marks regarding their health. Starting right tackle Isaiah Wilson twisted an ankle in the second half and briefly left the game. He came back, however, and coach Kirby Smart thought the 6-foot-7, 340-pound sophomore was going to be all right.

» MORE: Kirby Smart's post-game comments

Smart wasn’t as sure about the status of redshirt freshman wideout Kearis Jackson, who injured a hand on the play he ended up fumbling away possession after a 39-yard reception down to the Vanderbilt 5. The team was awaiting word from X-rays after the game.

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Otherwise, the Bulldogs were quite pleased to head home with a convincing SEC Eastern Division victory — their 14th in a row dating back to the 2016 season — even if it was a bit sloppy at times.

“Certainly, there’s a lot of room for improvement, but those guys play physical,” Smart said. “We’ve got to have a lot of things to work on. … But everything will be exaggerated great or everything will be exaggerated horrible. That’s just the way it is.”

Here are five things we learned:

D-Rob’s a play-maker after all

So maybe Demetris Robertson can play a little after all. Some wondered after his first season with the Bulldogs in which he failed to record a catch all season after having more than 700 receiving yards as a freshman at Cal. Robertson knocked that monkey off his back on Georgia's first offensive possession of the game Saturday. He hauled in a hard-thrown pass from Jake Fromm cross the back of the end zone for a three-yard score. Robertson would catch two more passes on the night — three including a deep ball that was negated due to a holding penalty  and he also had two runs for 29 yards on reverses.

» MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM: Bulldogs do just enough

“Coming into this game, I was thinking, ‘when am I gonna get my first catch, what’s my first catch going to be,’ ” said Robertson, a junior from Savannah. “So it was awesome to get a touchdown and for the offense to throw the ball down the field when we were clicking in the first half.”

Said Smart of Robertson: “I mean, he was just as talented last year as he is now. He just doesn't have a 10.4 100-meter guy in front of him, a seventh-round pick and a fourth-round pick. He's able to get opportunities now, and he’s taking full advantage of those.”

Robertson had the most catches of the eight-man receiver group. Jackson, Lawrence Cager and Matt Landers also had two.

What about havoc?

Georgia talked so much about havoc rate in the preseason that even the players became exasperated by it. But as when Azeez Ojulari and Justin Young finally broke through with a shared sack in the second half against the Commodores, the on-field and sideline celebration showed how much it really meant to the Bulldogs’ defenders.

“First sack felt great,” Ojulari said. “That’s what we come in and work for every week. “That’s why we run those pass-rush drills and do everything we do every day. It felt great.”

» PHOTOS: Bulldogs cruise in Nashville

Sophomore noseguard Jordan Davis added a tackle for loss and also nearly had a blocked field goal. He got a hand on Vanderbilt’s first field goal but it managed to get through the uprights anyway. But Georgia’s sideline was celebrating as if it didn’t.

“We get hyped, we feed off each other and we love that,” Davis said. “Yeah, I got a good paw on it. He just had good enough power so it still went through. I was a little disappointed, but he’s a good kicker.”

In the end, Georgia had two sacks, three quarterback hurries, one tackle for loss, one pass break-up and three quarterback hurries. Depending on how the Bulldogs do their own calculations, with 62 offensive plays by Vanderbilt, that’s well below the 20 percent goal.

‘Red sea’ of Bulldogs’ fans

Official numbers are going to be hard to come by, but it appeared that three-quarters of Vanderbilt Stadium was occupied by red-clad Georgia fans. The game was announced as a sellout with a total of at 40,350 spectators in attendance. Pregame estimates were the upward of 28,000 — or about 70 percent — of the tickets sold went to UGA faithful.

The Bulldogs noticed the tremendous support.

“It’s the Red Sea,” sophomore Jordan Davis said. “I couldn’t ask for more. These dedicated fans are the reason why I chose this school. Everywhere we go we know they’re going to be there. As for fan support, we couldn’t ask for more.”

Said junior linebacker Monty Rice: “It’s always exciting to see that. I’m glad they came. There was a sea of red here and it’s always exciting to look up and see that most of the fans here are yours.”

Smart was particularly impressed and shared his pride with reporters afterward.

“That says everything about Georgia,” he said. “The University of Georgia is a special place. The reason all of y’all are here is covering Georgia, right? Georgia is an unbelievable place, Georgia's an unbelievable market, an unbelievable university, an unbelievable academic institution. The fans travel well, they love their stadium, they love our place, they want to go (other places). I mean I’m proud to be at the University of Georgia and I’m proud to be an alum of the University of Georgia and I know our fans turn out because they want to be recognized. They want to be great. They want to be part of something special and so do we. So, the two groups align, for sure.”

Running game still dominant

There was a fair amount of complaining on social media about how inconsistent the Bulldogs looked on offense, especially the passing game. But lost in Georgia fans’ fits Saturday was a solid — and sometimes dominant — rushing attack.

The Bulldogs had a total of 481 yards against Vanderbilt, 325 of which came on runs — or 67.5 percent. All-SEC running back D’Andre Swift led the way with 149 yards on 16 carries and two of Georgia’s three touchdowns were scored on the ground.

Bulldogs leaders

 

“I don’t know how it was 150 yards rushing, but hats off to our offensive line,” Swift said after the game. “I think we did a good job tonight. We got the win tonight, so we’re happy. We’re not satisfied at all. We know there’s a lot we can get better on. But we’re always happy about winning.”

Georgia fans were particularly fired up every time Zamir White came into the game. They had to wait a while, too, as the redshirt freshman coming off double knee injuries didn’t get his first career carry until early in the third quarter. The crowd yelled his nickname “Zeus!” when he came into the game and had a three-yard run. He’d finish with 51 yards on five carries, with a long run of 23 yards.

"I love him, too,” Smart said of the adoration fans have for White. “He’s been through so much. He’s a tremendous kid. I love all our kids and he’s just another one who has been through a tough time. To see him go out there and have some success, he’s so deserving of that and our medical staff is deserving of a pat on the back for getting him out there because they spent a lot time with him on the mend.”

No breaks for Bulldogs

A lot of things didn’t go Georgia’s way on Saturday, even though it scored a comfortable victory. The Bulldogs were victimized by a fourth-down conversion on a fake punt, were stuffed going for it on fourth down themselves and were flagged 10 times for a total of 117 yards, including three very costly personal foul penalties.

Smart defended his decision to go for it on fourth-and-two at the Vanderbilt 17 early in the third quarter. Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship already had made a 50-yard field and would have been looking at a relative chip shot of 34 yards with the Bulldogs already leading 24-6. Instead, Swift was stuffed for a three-yard loss.

“Kick a field goal there and it's still a three-score game,” Smart said. “So, it was an opportunity to make it a four-score game, and we felt like we could get it and put the game away. Because, either way, three scores and you lose.”

Smart was particularly upset over the personal fouls.

“We need to stay off people’s facemasks because we basically gave them 45 yards and two field goals on undisciplined penalties,” he lamented.

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