NASHVILLE — Rise and shine?
After winning their first four games at night and routing Tennessee last weekend in the late afternoon, the Georgia Bulldogs made the most of their first lunchtime start Saturday with a 45-14 dismantling of Vanderbilt before a mostly red-clad audience of 36,282. Sony Michel rushed for 150 yards and Nick Chubb added 138 as the No. 5 Bulldogs racked up 423 yards on the ground in coasting to a 6-0 record.
"It wasn't that much different, because we took care of that during the week," Chubb said of the 11 a.m. Central time start. "We made sure everyone was in bed on time and that we all got our eight hours of sleep every night. I didn't feel tired at all, and I don't think anybody did."
Georgia's rushing output was the sixth-largest in program history and the most since 1987, when the Bulldogs ran for 454 against Vanderbilt. The Commodores, who were gashed for 496 rushing yards two weeks ago in a 59-0 home loss to Alabama, have been outgained 1,338-215 on the ground in their past four contests.
The Bulldogs, 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference, were Vanderbilt's fourth ranked opponent in a row.
"It's dead legs," Commodores coach Derek Mason said when asked about the inability to stop the run. "When you have backs who are running with low pad levels, it's about force encountering force. You have to trust your training.
"These guys need to work on tackling fundamentals. We didn't have this problem earlier in the season."
Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3) plays this week at Ole Miss.
With the victory, Georgia clinched bowl eligibility for a 21st consecutive season, a streak that leads the SEC, but Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart admitted that Saturday's starting time had him concerned.
"As a coach you love a routine, and it scared me to death having one this early," he said. "We got our players up early on Thursday, whether they had class or not, and we got them up early on Friday. I thought our strength staff did an incredible job, because they were bear-hugging every player this morning whether they wanted it or not.
"I certainly didn't want one, but they gave me one, too. It made everybody kind of wake up and get going and get your juices flowing."
Jim Chaney's offense eased any of Smart's worries on its first possession, moving 83 yards on seven plays without needing a single pass. Chubb had five rushes for 69 yards on the opening drive and finished with 106 yards in the first half.
Michel had 96 of his yards in the second half, including a 50-yard touchdown at the 10:17 mark of the third quarter that made it 35-7.
"The game ball goes to our offensive line," Smart said. "They played physical, and they played tough. They overpowered what I think is a good defensive front. Vanderbilt may not be as good as they were last year defensively, but they've still got some good players on defense. Our backs and our O-line just singlehandedly took over the game."
Said Michel: "Coach Chaney had a great game plan today, and he called a good game. The offensive line and receivers played a physical game and went out there and blocked their tails off. We had success on offense, but we still have room to improve."
When Vanderbilt scored on a Ralph Webb 1-yard run with 28 seconds left in the fist half, it ended a streak by the Georgia defense of 31 consecutive possessions without giving up a touchdown. That stretch was the longest since 2006, when the Bulldogs defense also had a streak of 31.
The Bulldogs return to Sanford Stadium this Saturday night, when they host Missouri at 7:30 on the SEC Network.
"The only difference today was getting up earlier and playing earlier," Bulldogs junior linebacker Roquan Smith said. "We have our jaws locked, and we know our mindset and what we want to do when we come out and play."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.