ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia Bulldogs had a big day offensively and defensively Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium but couldn’t put their opponent away until late in the fourth quarter.
Was this a rerun?
Georgia’s 24-14 homecoming victory over Vanderbilt was similar in many ways to the previous week’s 26-14 win over Tennessee. The 10th-ranked Bulldogs had a statistical domination against the 22nd-ranked Commodores (425-245 in total yards) that mirrored last week’s showing against the Vols (458-209), and Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions again.
The interceptions were more costly against Tennessee because they occurred in the red zone.
“I think we played better last week,” Stafford said. “I think we moved the ball up and down as an offense pretty freely last week. They stopped us a couple of times three-and-out today, but we shot ourselves in the foot, too. We had some plays that didn’t work, and that’s going to happen.
Vanderbilt's Patrick Benoist tries to get a hold on Georgia's Caleb King as Vanderbilt University takes on the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. on Saturday, October 18, 2008. Georgia won, 24-14. (Photo/Mark E. Johnson)
“Our guys didn’t panic, and there were times when our guys could have panicked and folded the tent.”
Freshman kicker Blair Walsh missed a 40-yard field-goal try wide left to end Georgia’s first possession of the game and had a 37-yard attempt hit the right upright with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter. That miss came after an 11-play, 77-yard drive and could have made the score 24-14, but he got a reprieve with a 39-yarder with 17 seconds left after Vandy lost the ball on downs.
Walsh had missed only two field-goal attempts before Saturday, each longer than 50 yards.
Georgia’s less-than-perfect performance still left the intended mark on the SEC East standings. The Bulldogs are now 6-1 overall, bowl-eligible for a 12th consecutive year and 3-1 in league play, pulling them even in the East with Florida (5-1, 3-1).
The first BCS standings will be released today, and the Bulldogs will be ranked well above 20th, which is where they were in the first BCS standings last season.
“Every goal we set is still in front of us,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “I would say we’re in pretty good shape.”
Vanderbilt (5-2, 3-2) still needs one more win to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 1982.
“I thought when the ball hit the upright and came back that it was a good omen for us,” Vandy coach Bobby Johnson said. “Our guys don’t quit, and I don’t even have to worry about them.”
Sophomore tailback Knowshon Moreno rushed for 172 yards on 23 carries and freshman receiver A.J. Green had seven catches for 132 yards to lead the Bulldogs. Stafford was 4-of-5 passing for 84 yards through two possessions, with every attempt going to Green.
Green’s 49-yard catch down the left sideline set up his diving 17-yard touchdown that put Georgia up 7-0. He has 573 receiving yards through seven games, a total that would have led the 2005 and the 2006 Bulldogs in those seasons.
Sean Bailey led the Bulldogs last year with 615 yards.
“I’ve learned a lot from the first game,” Green said. “I don’t have to ask people what my route is and stuff like that. Now I can just go out there and play my game.”
Said Richt: “We were hoping he’d make an impact, and he has — from the very first game.”
Richt said the biggest difference between the past two weeks is that Georgia was only 1-for-8 on third-down conversions against the Commodores. The Bulldogs were 9-of-17 in that department against Tennessee.
Vanderbilt will host Duke this Saturday, while Georgia is scheduled to visit defending national champion LSU. It will be announced today whether the Bulldogs and Tigers will be playing on CBS or ESPN.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...