North Murray grad Ladd McConkey shines in Georgia's historic rout of Vandy

Georgia photo by Tony Walsh / Georgia redshirt freshman receiver and former North Murray standout Ladd McConkey had two touchdowns Saturday as No. 2 Georgia humiliated Vanderbilt 62-0 in Nashville.

The Southeastern Conference determined that last year's Georgia-Vanderbilt football game in Athens would be a no-contest due to COVID-19 protocol preventing the Commodores from meeting the necessary roster requirements.

Saturday afternoon at Vanderbilt Stadium, the No. 2 Bulldogs delivered their own no-contest verdict with a 35-point first quarter in an eventual 62-0 thrashing. Freshman tight end Brock Bowers and redshirt freshman receiver Ladd McConkey, the former North Murray High School standout, each had touchdowns via receptions and end-around runs during Georgia's onslaught within the first 15 minutes in Nashville.

The 62-point massacre was the largest in series history, topping the 47-0 win by the Commodores in 1901, and it was Georgia's second-biggest SEC win behind the 75-0 pulverizing of Florida in 1942.

"I was proud of how our guys started," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said on a Zoom call. "I thought the turnout was incredible, as it normally is when we come up here. I thought our kids came out and started fast, and that was the goal all week. We played videos of Mike Tyson and talked about starting fast and playing to our standard, and I thought they did that.

"If you're going to be elite as a team, you've got to be elite all the time and not some of the time. Our guys embraced that."

Georgia (4-0, 2-0) racked up 532 yards while holding Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-1) to 77, and the outcome could have been much, much worse. Bulldogs starting quarterback JT Daniels played only the first quarter but was 9-of-10 passing for 129 yards and two touchdowns, while senior nose tackle Jordan Davis told the SEC Network after the rout that he played only nine snaps.

Bulldogs junior outside linebacker Nolan Smith admitted afterward that Georgia's practices are "a lot" tougher than games, but Smart knows more demanding Saturdays are around the corner, beginning with next weekend's visit by Arkansas.

The 16th-ranked Razorbacks improved to 4-0 in former Georgia assistant Sam Pittman's second season as head coach with a 20-10 win Saturday against No. 7 Texas A&M in the SEC opener for both teams. The Aggies (3-1) had won 11 straight games dating to a loss at Alabama last October.

"This rarely happens in our conference, so you take it for what it is and grow the other players," Smart said. "You get a chance to develop them. I talked to an NFL GM who told me the best thing to do is tell the players to go play well so the other guys can play. I didn't have the guts to say that today, but they did. They went and played well, and the other guys got to play because they played well.

"Our team got to grow as a unit because of our ability to play a lot of players."

photo AP photo by Mark Humphrey / Georgia football players celebrate as they leave the field after Saturday's 62-0 win against Vanderbilt in Nashville. The Bulldogs improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in SEC play while handing the Commodores (1-3, 0-1) their fourth straight defeat in the series as well as their 14th straight conference loss dating to 2019.

McConkey certainly had a stellar afternoon, collecting four receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown from 12 yards out, with his rushing score coming from 24 yards. He was leading the Bulldogs in rushing and receiving at the end of the first quarter, when Georgia amassed 208 yards.

"It felt good, obviously, and to get my first touchdowns and stuff," McConkey said, "but at the end of the day, the win is all that matters. Our coaches were putting us in the right positions at the right times, which made it easy for me, and the way we practice sets us all up for success."

The 6-foot, 185-pounder from Chatsworth also earned his second start of the season and his first since the Clemson opener.

"Ladd McConkey wasn't heralded," Smart said, "but he was a guy we watched, and I said, 'This guy is fast, and he's smart and athletic. He competes. He's tough.' To me, that's a little bit of what's missing in football."

Vanderbilt's best hope for points evaporated in the first minute of the second quarter, when Joseph Bulovas missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt.

"This is my ownership, and it's my accountability," Vandy first-year coach Clark Lea said. "It extends to our coaches - their accountability - and then it extends to the players. It's the ownership of the players over our process to move forward and to be better. Credit to Georgia, but we have to find a way to measure our process and stop playing according to what the opponent does. It's about Vanderbilt."

Said Smart: "It's tough when you go out in a matchup like that, and you know you're overmatched. The kids have to fight hard and fight through it, and that's part of football."

photo AP photo by Mark Humphrey / Vanderbilt football coach Clark Lea watches during the first half of Saturday's loss to Georgia in Nashville. Lea's Commodores lost 62-0 for their biggest margin of defeat in the history of the series that dates to 1893.

No huge runs

McConkey's 24-yard score on his end-around carry with 3:08 remaining in the first quarter not only extended Georgia's lead to 35-0 but also became the longest run from scrimmage this season for the Bulldogs. James Cook has a 23-yard run, while Zamir White and Kendall Milton both have 22-yard carries.

Smart was asked about the lack of huge runs a third of the way into this regular season.

"If you don't run the ball successfully, it can create problems for you, but balance is what the defense dictates to you sometimes," he said. "They were dictating to us that they were not going to let us run the ball. They were going to make it difficult and try to make us throw the ball, which we did. We've hit some explosive plays because of the way teams have played our run, but we're not as big and massive.

"We don't have a Ben Cleveland or a Solomon Kindley or some of those guys. We are athletic and have guys who put us in the right place, but we have not been as explosive in the run game as I would like for us to be or as consistent."

Dawg bites

Georgia has pitched first-half shutouts in three of its four games this season, with the exception last weekend's 26-6 lead over South Carolina. ... Freshman defensive back Keelee Ringo made his first start. ... Smart is 23-2 against the SEC East since the start of the 2017 season, losing only to South Carolina in 2019 and Florida last year. ... Milton was held out as a result of a shoulder injury he sustained last weekend. ... Smart ended his Zoom call by challenging Bulldogs fans to be "louder than we ever have" for next Saturday's noon kickoff in Sanford Stadium versus the Razorbacks.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.