The SEC's all-time leading receivers in terms of career yardage:
1. Georgia's Terrence Edwards (1999-2002) 3,093
2. South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery (2009-11) 3,042
3. LSU's Josh Reed (1999-2001) 3,001
4. Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews (2010-pres) 2,991
5. Vanderbilt's Boo Mitchell (1985-88) 2,964
ATHENS, Ga. — The good news for Georgia's youthful defensive backs is that they don't have to face Missouri's monstrous receivers again this season.
The bad news for the Bulldogs is that they're headed to Nashville.
Vanderbilt senior Jordan Matthews needs just 103 yards to pass Terrence Edwards as the Southeastern Conference's all-time leading receiver. Edwards racked up 3,093 yards while playing for Georgia from 1999 to 2002, but Matthews could take the new standard closer to 4,000 by maintaining his average this season of 118.2 yards a game.
"He's a really good receiver, so you've got to change up what you're doing, and that's from a formation standpoint and everything," Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "You have to mix things up, because you can't let a good player like that get a guy one-on-one and make some things happen. That isn't good."
Opponents have tried various ways of stopping the 6-foot-3, 212-pounder from Madison, Ala., but with little success. Ole Miss had Matthews in double coverage late in the season opener, but he still converted a fourth-and-18 with a leaping 42-yard reception to cap a 178-yard evening.
Matthews had been vomiting moments before the fourth-down catch due to severe cramping.
"I've seen some crazy coverages on Saturdays," Matthews said Monday during a media session in Nashville. "When we played South Carolina, Jadeveon Clowney dropped back into coverage one time. I was like, 'Bro, aren't you supposed to be pass rushing?' People have been trying a lot of stuff and it's part of the game, but I don't let it affect me."
Said Commodores coach James Franklin: "Everybody knows that he's going to touch the ball as many times as we can possibly get it to him, and he's still finding ways to be productive."
Matthews has a league-leading 47 receptions for 709 yards and five touchdowns, and he has five 100-yard games in Vanderbilt's 3-3 start. The No. 15 Bulldogs (4-2) have allowed three 100-yard receivers this season and nearly a fourth, with South Carolina's Nick Jones tallying 97 yards.
LSU's Jarvis Landry racked up 156 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches at Georgia on Sept. 28, while Missouri 6-4 senior L'Damian Washington had 115 yards and two scores on seven receptions last Saturday inside Sanford Stadium. Missouri 6-6 sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham and 6-5 senior Marcus Lucas combined on seven catches.
"I think when it got down to the jump-ball situation, we got outmanned," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "When it came to handling some of those quick screens out there, I thought we actually played a pretty good game. You saw [safety] Josh Harvey-Clemons make some nice plays where he either powered through a guy or made a guy miss.
"Matthews is not super big, but he's strong and fast with great hands. He's definitely a high draft pick. He's going to play, if he stays healthy, a lot of years in the NFL."
Georgia will enter the Vanderbilt game ranked 12th in the SEC in pass defense (allowing 259.3 yards a game) and 13th in pass-efficiency defense. The Bulldogs are tied with Kentucky with a league-worst one interception.
Grantham is expected to be without freshman safety Tray Matthews (hamstring) again this week, but he is trying to find positives with which to build.
"One of the things I was really pleased with in this last game was our early-down defense," Grantham said. "Our guys really took away a lot of things from Missouri and allowed us to get some sacks and some incompletions. When you go back and look at winning the first down, it was probably the highest we've had this year in terms of making it second-and-7 or more relative to the other games, and a lot of that credit goes to the players in the back end and the way they performed."
Freshman cornerback Shaq Wiggins had the most success against Missouri's receivers according to Richt. Wiggins said this week that he is trying to take in the good with the bad this season while competing on a new level, and senior safety Connor Norman said the secondary is anything but dejected.
"I definitely think we're encouraged," Norman said. "We're 4-2. We're not 0-6 or 1-5. Guys are getting better every week, and we're going to continue to work."
Odds and ends
Georgia tailback Todd Gurley did some change-of-direction running in Wednesday's two-hour practice, Richt said, but the Bulldogs are preparing as if he won't play. ... Inside linebacker Ramik Wilson, who ranks second in the SEC with 61 tackles, returned to practice. ... Kolton Houston has started the last four games at right tackle, but Richt said John Theus has been lining up this week with the first team.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
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 ...