No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs thoroughly dominant in win over Vanderbilt

Georgia linebacker Adam Anderson (19) watches from the sideline in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Georgia linebacker Adam Anderson (19) watches from the sideline in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Credit: AP

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Georgia built a 35-0 lead before all of its fans had even entered the Vanderbilt Stadium for Saturday’s game. At that point, quarterback JT Daniels’ day was over, and the Bulldogs proceeded to practice for next week’s game against No. 16 Arkansas in what ended as a 62-0 victory.

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Georgia’s 35 points in the opening stanza was not a record for a single quarter. The Bulldogs scored 42 in the second quarter against New Mexico State in 2011. But, kicking off at 11 a.m. local time, UGA historian Loran Smith pointed out that he was “pretty sure that’s a record for points before lunch.”

It was as complete and thorough an SEC victory in Kirby Smart’s tenure as Georgia’s head coach. His 2017 team defeated Tennessee 41-0. Georgia’s largest margin of victory in an SEC game remains 75-0 over Florida in 1942.

The Bulldogs probably could have challenged that Saturday had they not quickly moved to wholesale substitutions in the first half. Still, at one point in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs actually had scored more points (62) than the Commodores had yards in the game (54). Then Vandy quarterback Mike Wright scrambled for an eight-yard gain to even it with 11 minutes remaining in the game.

The Commodores finished with 77 total yards to Georgia’s 524. It was embarrassingly one-sided for an SEC contest.

“I talked to coach (Clark) Lea before the game, and he knows it’s going to be a process,” said Smart, in his sixth year as the Bulldogs’ coach. “It’s tough when you’re in a game like that. I give our guys credit for focusing on playing to our standard. But Vandy helped us, too, with those turnovers.”

Vandy went three-and-out on its first two possessions, and Georgia averaged two minutes on ensuing scoring drives of 49 and 63 yards. Each ended in touchdown passes by Daniels to Brock Bowers of 12 and 25 yards, respectively.

The contest quickly devolved from there. Georgia’s Jaylen Johnson caused a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return, which Daijun Edwards fielded in midair on the dead run and returned to the Vanderbilt 4. Zamir White scored on a one-yard plunge to make the score 21-0 less than eight minutes into the game.

On the Commodores’ next play from scrimmage, cornerback Derion Kendrick deflected a pass that safety Christopher Smith intercepted and returned 20 yards to the 21-yard line. Two plays later, slotback Ladd McConkey scored the first of his two touchdowns in the game, this one on a 13-yard throw from Daniels.

Georgia 62, Vanderbilt 0

Georgia made the score 35-0 when McConkey scored again on a 24-yard end-around with 3:08 remaining. Vanderbilt finally was able to knock out a couple of first downs to get out of the first quarter without any further damage.

McConkey, a redshirt freshman, finished with 86 total yards and two touchdowns on five touches.

“It really just comes with practice reps and preparation,” McConkey said. “And going against our defense every day.”

Ah, yes, Georgia’s defense. The Bulldogs posted their sixth shutout under Smart, fourth in an SEC game and first since blanking Missouri 27-0 in 2019. It marked the third time this year that Georgia has blanked a team in the first half.

Vandy finished with 77 yards on 46 plays. Coming in, Georgia ranked second in the SEC allowing only 7.7 points per game.

The Commodores missed a 49-yard field-goal attempt against the No. 1 defense early in the second quarter. They reached the scoring area two other times against the Bulldogs’ backups in the second half, only to turn the ball over on downs each time.

Those stops were heartily celebrated by Georgia’s front-line defenders on the sideline.

“We always say there’s no drop-off and you’re a starter if you’re out there on the field,” said junior Nolan Smith, who led the Bulldogs with three tackles in the first half. “We never want the other team in our end zone, ever. That’s the standard no matter who’s in the game.”

While Georgia’s margin was large enough to cover two games, the Bulldogs continued to maintain that there was no revenge factor involved in this contest. Vanderbilt canceled on Georgia twice last season, reportedly because of COVID-19 roster shortages. But the Commodores managed to play Tennessee the week in between.

georgia football-social media-vanderbilt
Georgia players leave the field after a win over Vanderbilt in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. Georgia won 62-0. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

This time around, the Bulldogs played nearly every one of the 70 players that traveled with them to Nashville. Meanwhile, Daniels played only one quarter.

That was enough time for Daniels to complete nine of 10 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. The lone incompletion was a drop of a perfectly thrown pass to wideout Justin Robinson. Daniels recovered to hit Bowers for a 25-yard touchdown on the next play.

It was another impressive day for the freshman tight end. Bowers caught touchdown passes on Georgia’s first two possessions of the game and led the Bulldogs in receiving again with four catches for 69 yards. He did not play in the second half.

Quarterback Stetson Bennett played the second quarter and most of the third. He finished with 151 yards on 11-of-15 passing, with a touchdown and interception. Redshirt freshman Carson Beck was under center for the remainder of the game.

Georgia fans were well-represented once again in Vanderbilt Stadium, but not nearly to the extent when approximately 30,000 attended to 2019 game to open the season. Still, the Bulldogs’ red-and-black faithful appeared to make up at least 70 percent of the spectators in attendance.

“I’m really proud of our fan base,” Smart said. “I thought the turnout was incredible, as it normally is when we come up here. Our guys came out here and started fast. That was the goal all week. ... Tough atmosphere to play in early on, from warm-ups throughout. We talked about it not letting it be an excuse. If you’re going to be elite as a team, you have to be elite all the time, not some of the time. That is not how elite teams play. Our guys embraced that and I’m proud of them.”

Smart then challenged the Georgia fans to show up early to create a loud and raucous atmosphere for next Saturday’s game against No. 16 Arkansas. The Razorbacks played No. 7 Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday afternoon.

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