NASHVILLE — With Natrez Patrick out due to his arrest Thursday night for marijuana possession, and with Reggie Carter injured, somebody for Georgia had to make his first career start alongside Roquan Smith at inside linebacker.
That somebody was Juwan Taylor.
The 6-foot-1, 214-pound junior from Hollywood, Fla., learned Friday morning about his opportunity and recorded three tackles, including a 3-yard tackle for loss, in Saturday's 45-14 vanquishing of Vanderbilt. Taylor's lost-yardage stop occurred early in the second quarter, when he stuffed backup tailback Khari Blasingame.
"It was a simple cross-blitz call, and I came free and made a play," Taylor said. "I've dreamed for that play my whole life. Overall, I think I played all right. I could have played better.
"For now, I've just got to get better in practice."
Patrick and Carter didn't make the trip to Vanderbilt Stadium, leaving the responsibility to Taylor and freshman Monty Rice, who made two tackles. Second-year Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Taylor and Rice played OK, adding that they did show some anxiety.
Smart and Smith each used the "next man up" mantra when discussing the situation.
"All of our linebackers practice their tails off all week, and I feel like every man is capable of getting the job done," Smith said. "They're here at Georgia, and they're here for a reason."
Said Smart: "Juwan takes every rep with the twos, and the reason you practice is so you can play. He was excited to be in."
Patrick is expected to serve a four-game suspension, but Smart would only say that his situation is being handled internally.
Taking the blame
Georgia sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason entered Saturday's game with 10:15 remaining and the Bulldogs up 45-7. On his first play from scrimmage, the 6-5, 235-pounder was sacked by Commodores cornerback Bryce Lewis, which resulted in a fumble that defensive tackle Nifae Lealoa returned 15 yards to Georgia's 1-yard line.
The Bulldogs nearly pulled off a goal-line stand, but Kyle Shurmur passed to C.J. Duncan over the middle on fourth down from 3 yards out to cap the scoring.
"I take the blame for what happened to Jacob Eason," Smart said. "I wanted the kid to come in and be able to throw the ball. I called that play and put him in a bad situation. That's on me."
Eason did regroup a bit, finishing 3-of-3 passing for 24 yards.
When's the flight?
Solomon Kindley, a 6-4, 335-pound redshirt freshman right guard, has battled an ankle injury all season. Kindley got the start Saturday but hobbled to the sideline in the fourth quarter and did not return.
When asked about Kindley's status, Smart said, "I think he just wants you guys to ask about him. I think he was tired of playing, so he comes hobbling off and says, 'It's my ankle, Coach.' He's just ready to get on the plane and get a sandwich."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs were 4-for-4 with three touchdowns in red-zone opportunities Saturday and are now 23-for-23 for the season with 17 touchdowns. Sophomore running back Elijah Holyfield scored the first touchdown of his college career from 15 yards out with 13:50 remaining. Sophomore defensive tackle Julian Rochester made his first start of the year and the seventh of his career. Georgia's 6-0 start is its first since 2005, when the Bulldogs last won the Southeastern Conference title.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.