The problem with a win by a struggling Georgia team over an opponent like Vanderbilt is that it’s difficult to know how much of the result was due to improved play on the part of the Dogs and how much to the Commodores just being lousy.
Still, there are positives that can be taken from the game — along with some nagging problems that haven’t gone away.
On the plus side, Georgia numerically had its best day in a long time running the ball. But 120 of Georgia’s 173 rushing yards came in the fourth quarter. One the one hand, you could say that the game already had been decided and Vandy was flagging somewhat by that point. On the other hand, it was a rare occurrence of the Dogs being able to put a game away by grinding it out even when the Commodores knew we were going to be pretty much doing nothing but running the ball. At the very least, the Dogs spent some time working on the running game against someone other than the scout team.
As for the tailback situation, as Mark Richt noted after the game, there’s still no one back who “can run everything we do … There’s some things that we think some guys do better than others.” In other words, there’s still no breakout performer, but I’d say it’s pretty obvious the bulk of the carries need to go to Washaun Ealey, who was the leading ground gainer mainly thanks to that 33-yarder, and Caleb King, who was superb in pass protection, had a couple of nice runs and looked good turning that screen pass into a 21-yard scoring play. The Dogs also should continue to make an effort to get Carlton Thomas the ball in space. Richard Samuel looked pretty much the same: good for a couple of yards but no more.
It was also painfully obvious, especially in the first quarter, that Georgia’s offensive line still hasn’t mastered run-blocking. The penetration into the backfield they allow also makes it difficult for the Dogs to run the toss sweep or the end-around. At this point, you have to wonder if that’s ever going to improve this season. As noted yesterday, though, using two tight ends at times in the fourth quarter seemed to help quite a bit.
And I really liked the play of Fred Munzenmaier, who got to start at fullback because of an injury to Shaun Chapas. Munz had a nice 9-yard touchdown run and caught three passes (as many as A.J. Green) for 21 yards. Chapas should be able to play in Jacksonville, but considering how inconsistent he has been this season, here’s hoping Munzenmaier gets the start against Florida.
Joe Cox opened the game just 3-of-11 (mainly due to drops) and threw another pick, but he completed throws to 10 different players, plus the tight ends got back into the mix, which is definitely a positive. And overall Georgia racked up 399 yards of offense against an SEC defense ranked No. 22 nationally.
On the defensive side, Georgia’s pass rush continued to develop nicely, with three sacks of Vandy QB Larry Smith and numerous hurries. You do have to keep in mind, though, that Smith looked pretty hapless back there. And I wasn’t thrilled with the way Vandy was able to move downfield on the first drive of the second half and on the Dores’ last drive with backup quarterback Mackenzi Adams — though on the latter drive Georgia had its backups in and was in even more of a prevent defense than usual … and did get a fourth-down stop.
It was encouraging to see Reshad Jones get an interception. Some things never change, though. Bryan Evans again got burned on a long pass. It’s past time for Bacarri Rambo to be the starter at that safety spot.
And Prince Miller finally was given the chance to show he’s a much better punt returner than he is a cover back.
I guess the best thing that can be said about the win over Vandy is that the Dogs never trailed, pulled away at the end and got back into a positive frame of mind. Whether that does anything at all to reduce the odds of them getting embarrassed by Florida is impossible to say, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Did you see anything Saturday that makes you feel better about Georgia’s chances against the Gators? Or did Vandy’s ineptitude merely mask some of the Dogs’ continuing deficiencies?