NASHVILLE – Forget Georgia-Florida, Georgia-Auburn or Georgia-Georgia Tech. The new white-hot rivalry for the Bulldogs may be with Vanderbilt.
Players and coaches had to be separated following the Bulldogs’ hard-fought, emotional 33-28 win. The game wasn’t decided until Vanderbilt tight end Branden Barden of Lincolnton, Ga., was corralled at the Georgia 16-yard line as time expired.
Immediately afterward, a skirmish ensued between the teams that appeared to be mostly yelling and gesturing and little actual physical confrontation. Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was a central figure in the fray.
Grantham pretty much refused to comment directly what went on with Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin at the end of the game. All he would say and kept repeating was, “I love our players. I’m going to stick up for my players. Everybody’s competitive.”
Franklin was a little more telling with his comment: “We just had a tough, emotional game and some things were said that I didn’t think were appropriate. I went to find Coach Richt and didn’t find him, so I found one of his assistant coaches and it didn’t go well. We’re not going to sit back and take it from anyone.”
Franklin said he eventually found Richt.
“I explained to him what happened,” Franklin said. “That’s for me and Coach Richt to deal with. Hopefully we’ll learn from that experience. Those things happen.”
Replays after the game show Grantham screaming at Franklin in the middle of the field as the players from both teams stood across opposing lines separated by coaches in the middle.
Grantham was reprimanded by Richt last year when he made the choke sign toward Florida kicker Chaz Henry as he prepared to make a game-tying field goal attempt to send the game into overtime. Henry made the kick and the Gators went on to win.
Georgia was called for three personal foul penalties in Saturday’s game and Richt clearly wasn’t happy with the way his players or his coaches acted at the end of the emotional contest.
“I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe TV picked it up and we’ll get a better view of what was going on. But we are grown men and we need to act that way. But we’re also competitors and we all have emotions and xometimes when you get a little fired up it’s hard to keep from getting in some kind of jawing contest.
“I’ll say this: There were times when I was ashamed of some of the choice things that came out of my mouth during the game. So I’ve got to be disciplined, too.”
On the fracas between the two teams at the end of the game, Richt said:
“I don’t know for sure what heppened. I’ve heard a couple of different sides of the story. It’s hard to know which one is 100 percent the truth. But the bottom line is when the game is over the game’s over. You shake hands and you be thankful for the victory. Just like at the end of a play. When a play’s over, it’s over. Go to the sideline. We didn’t do a very good job of that at times.
“It was heated. It IS battle. It’s not war with real bullets but it’s a war in a sense and it’s very physical. Tempers do get flared up. I don’t mind our blood getting hot but we have to be able to get excited or maybe even angry but not foul.”
Georgia was penalized 11 times for 89 yards in the game and generally played sloppy and without poise. When the Bulldogs were trying to salt the game away in the fourth quarter, they threw an interception, lost seven yards and had to punt on one possession, and finally had a punt blocked on its last possession.
Georgia senior punter Drew Butler should probably go down as the hero of the game. After the punt was blocked by another Georgia native — wide receiver Udom Umoh of Fort Valley — Butler managed to gather his wits quick enough to haul down Umoh at the 20 after Umoh had scooped up the ball.
After an illegal substitution penalty, the Commodores got off two plays before the game ended. The first was a pass in the end zone that bounced off the hands of receiver Chris Boyd, another Georgia native, from Roswell.
Said Grantham, whose unit gave up 349 yards to Vandy: “The bottom line is we stopped them three times in the fourth quarter when they had a chance to win the game.”
Said Richt: “I think Vanderbilt did a fantastic job. They were inches from winning the ballgame.”
Tailback Isaiah Crowell did not play the entire first quarter. Richt said it was “just a situation where it was a coach’s decision not to play him.”
Crowell. finished with 35 yards on 10 carries. He did not play late in the game because of the wrist injury that has plagued him the last three weeks, according to Richt.
Here’s some video of Coach Franklin’s postgame news conference: