ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia and Vanderbilt have been playing each other in football since 1893, but never has their matchup been so anticipated.
When the Bulldogs and Commodores got together last year in Nashville, three players received suspensions for flagrant fouls or fighting, and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin had to be separated after the game. Georgia survived 33-28, and the Bulldogs admitted after Saturday night's 56-20 drubbing of Florida Atlantic that this week will be a bit more energetic than most.
"Everyone saw what happened at the end of that game," defensive back Sanders Commings said. "I'm sure those guys are ready to play, and so are we. It should be a pretty emotional game. There were a couple of hits that were questionable by both sides, and the Georgia-Vandy game is always competitive because I guess we're like one of the big guys in the SEC, and in the past they've been one of the smaller guys in the SEC East, so they always bring it to us."
The Bulldogs, who are 3-0 and No. 5 in the new Associated Press poll, host Vanderbilt on Saturday night in an ESPN2-televised game.
Georgia safety Shawn Williams and Vanderbilt center Logan Stewart committed flagrant fouls in last season's matchup that resulted in half-game suspensions the following week. Bulldogs nose tackle Kwame Geathers received the same suspension for fighting with Stewart, who was dismissed from the program in January for violating team rules.
After his exchange with Grantham, Franklin galvanized Commodores fans by exclaiming, "We are not going to sit back and take stuff from anybody. Those days are long gone, and they are never coming back."
"I'm sure people are going to be talking about the incident all week, but we can't worry about that," Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray said. "We just have to worry about X's and O's and get in the film room and make sure we have a great week of practice. We can't let that little, silly nonsense affect us in the game and let our emotions get the best of us."
Georgia head coach Mark Richt expects his team to be motivated this week, but Grantham does not believe the anticipation will be anything out of the ordinary.
"To me, it's an SEC East game," Grantham said. "It's a home game. If we want to continue to do the things we've got to do, we've got to prepare and play to win the game."
The Bulldogs amassed a healthy 443 yards last year at Vandy and are coming off a program-record 713 yards against the Owls. Georgia's previous best of 667 occurred in 1993 against Southern Miss.
Georgia also has scored 40 or more points in its first three games for the first time in its history.
"It's a lot of fun to put those numbers up, and we're capable of doing that as an offense," Murray said. "I think we're very capable of scoring a lot of points and putting up a lot of yards, but we've got to keep working, and we can't be happy with where we are right now. There is still work to be done, but I know our guys see the potential."
Odds and ends
The SEC has four of the top seven teams in the latest AP poll, with No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 LSU, No. 5 Georgia and No. 7 South Carolina. ... Georgia's Sept. 29 home game against Tennessee is expected to be announced today as a 3:30 kickoff on CBS. ... Richt said Sunday that he is hopeful outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (groin) plays this week but was not sure about left guard Dallas Lee (ankle), who was injured against the Owls.
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 ...