If you were among the few fans wearing black and gold amid the sea of red as Georgia destroyed Vanderbilt 62-0, take a bow. Have a beer. You are the true fans, and you deserve it.
Although few expected a competitive game, this might have been even worse than imagined. At the very least Vandy fans hoped this could be a learning experience for a rebuilding program, and that’s the hope for Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea as well.
“You learn about yourself in a game like this.” Lea said after the game. “You also learn about yourself in the response to a game like this. We’re disappointed. We got a team that has a damaged pride right now. But how quickly can we turn the page and shift focus to our next opponent and win the response and be better?”
There isn’t a lot to dissect here, Georgia was just bigger, faster, stronger, and better across the board. Last week against Stanford, the game was lost in the final two minutes of the first half. This game was over at kickoff. The Commodores started the game slowly, which has become a recurring theme for the season. By the end of the first quarter it was 35-0, and the Bulldogs had more touchdowns (five) than Vandy would have first downs for the entire game (four).
After Commodore starting QB Ken Seals threw an interception in the second quarter he was replaced by Mike Wright. If you’re looking for a Vandy highlight on offense – and you have to look really hard with a team that scored 0 points — Wright had a couple of nice runs. With eight carries, he finished with 41 rushing yards – over half of Vandy’s absurdly low total 77 yards for the game. Unfortunately, he didn’t fare much better through the air, as both quarterbacks combined to complete 5 of 18 passes for 24 yards with two interceptions.
“We have to do better at [quarterback] of protecting the football and making good decisions,” Lea said. “To be capable of making the read and going with the ball where it needs to go is going to help position us to win games down the road. It was disappointing turning the ball over as that was one of our keys to win was perfect ball security.”
With Vandy’s top running back Re’Mahn Davis lost for the season, his replacements were completely ineffective against the formable Georgia defense. Rocko Griffin, Patrick Smith, Dylan Betts-Pauley, and James Ziglor III combined for 18 yards on 18 carries.
If you’re looking for a highlight on defense – and again you have to look really hard with a team that gave up 62 points — Vandy was able to stop the bleeding briefly in the second quarter. Ethan Barr had an impressive interception against Bulldog quarterback Stetson Bennett (starter JT Daniels was pulled after the first quarter). On the next Georgia drive, the Vandy defense managed a fourth down stop deep in the red zone for the second week in a row. But otherwise, the Commodores offered little resistance against the Bulldogs who finished with a balanced 291 yards passing and 241 yards on the ground. Georgia had two punts for the game – in the fourth quarter.
The good news is Vanderbilt won’t have to play a team this good the rest of the season. Georgia, along with Alabama (who thankfully isn’t on the schedule) look like they are in a class by themselves. With some winnable games left this season, the challenge for Lea is to keep morale and confidence up with the team after an embarrassing loss like this. Most Vandy fans would agree that there was clear progress from game one against ETSU to game three against Stanford. I would expect that development to continue despite the result of this game.
“This is just a point in the progression line. It doesn’t shake us because we understand it doesn’t define us. This is a delicate ecosystem, we are young, we are in the infancy of our program, this is the long hard way.” Lea said. “If we can learn to play up to our standard, if we can learn to play and represent Vanderbilt football, the personality, the style of play, there are better days ahead.”