ATHENS – This time around, the only drama between Georgia and Vanderbilt was the pregame coin toss.
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs won that little contest and nearly every one thereafter, cruising to a 48-3 win over the Commodores Saturday night at Sanford Stadium.
The stress-free victory came less than a year after Vanderbilt pushed the Bulldogs to the brink in Nashville before losing 33-28 in a nail-biter that ignited a postgame shouting match between Commodores head coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. This time it ended in a friendly handshake between the two men at midfield.
“We were going to go out there and, you know, have a group hug and then everybody’s going to go their way and move on,” Grantham quipped afterward. “They coach them hard, they play hard and they’re trying to be competitive. We’re all competitive. So we shook hands and moved on.”
Said Georgia coach Mark Richt: “That’s good. They should shake hands.”
There wasn’t much to argue about Saturday as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 27-3 first-half lead and never looked back. Georgia, which came into the game averaging 47.7 points and leading the SEC in total offense, have now scored more than 40 points in four consecutive games for the first time in school history. Coupled with the stingy defensive effort and solid specials teams play, it ended up as one of the Bulldogs’ most complete victories in recent memory.
“It’s hard to do that,” Richt said. “It’s just rare. I think our guys really wanted this one bad. They didn’t feel good about the way things went a year ago. . . . We wanted to prove we were better than that.”
The win was the 14th straight regular-season victory for Georgia and gets it off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2008, when they began the year ranked No. 1.
The Bulldogs take a 2-0 SEC record into next week’s home game against Tennessee, which will be nationally-televised on CBS. The Vols (3-1, 0-1 SEC) defeated Akron 47-26 Saturday night in Knoxville.
Georgia’s win was one of such total and complete domination it is difficult to know where to begin. Start with quarterback Aaron Murray, who had passed for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran in for another one by the end of the third quarter. He didn’t play the fourth.
“I felt good,” said Murray, who completed his first 12 passes of the night and hit nine different receivers on the night. “The O-line did one heckuva job and gave me plenty of time. Any quarterback can sit back there with a nice pocket. My job’s easy when you have a great offensive line and great receivers.”
The Bulldogs’ dynamic freshman tailback duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall continued to wow.
Gurley executed a 29-yard scoring run that was reminiscent of the kind another freshman back made at Georgia 30 years ago. He broke four tackles on the jaunt, including stiff-arming a safety to the ground to spring him the final 15 yards. Gurley finished with 130 yards on 16 carries and 2 touchdowns. That gives him 406 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns on 44 carries for the season.
“That was kind of Herschel Walker-ish,” senior flanker Tavarres King said with a grin.
Said junior guard Dallas Lee: “That was the coolest stiff arm I’ve ever seen in person. I can’t wait to go back and watch it on film. He’s a great running back and I love watching him run. It’s an honor to block for him.”
Marshall also scored twice and added 82 yards on 10 carries. The Bulldogs rushed for 303 yards on the night and had 568 yards. Georgia has now scored more than 40 points in four games in a row for the first time ever.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ defense could do no wrong either. The Commodores appeared to have scored a touchdown on a Jordan Rodgers’ run early in the fourth quarter. But an official review of the TD ruling on the field was overturned via replay. Rodgers’ had fumbled the ball into the end zone and Georgia was given the ball via touchback.
“We love the way we played today,” said junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who had a sack and three tackles for loss among his 7 tackles. “We played good on every level, offense, defense and special teams. We’ve got to play like that every week to be a championship-caliber team. If we keep playing like that I think we can go where we’re trying to go.”
The game got off to a perfect start for Georgia. After winning the toss and deferring to the second half, the Bulldogs, with the help of three offensive penalties, limited Vanderbilt to one yard and the Commodores had to punt from their own 15. Malcolm Mitchell returned the ensuing punt 14 yards to midfield.
Georgia then ran the ball five times in seven plays where Gurley scored on a 4-yard run over left tackle to post a quick lead. Gurley ran the ball four times for 21 yards on the drive and Murray had completions of 16 and 11 yards.
That proved to be just the beginning for Murray. The Bulldogs’ junior signalcaller completed his first 12 passes of the night – that’s third-best in UGA annals – and Georgia scored touchdowns on its first four possessions of the night in building a 27-0 lead in the first 25 minutes. The only blemish was a botched snap on a point-after try.
Even when the Bulldogs had to punt it went well for them. Vandy’s Caleb Azubike was called for roughing Collin Barber on Georgia’s first punt of the night, and the Bulldogs covered the remaining 60 yards in two runs by Marshall, the second one going 52 yards up the middle for a touchdown.
“I have to give Georgia credit; they are a very good football team and ranked No. 5 for a reason,” Vanderbilt’s Franklin said. ” I think the difference in the game was up front, especially with their offensive line. They did a good job.”
COMPLETE COVERAGE OF GEORGIA-VANDERBILT GAME: