- Saturday, 19 October 2013 17:00
- Author: Murray Poole
Folks, this was ugly.
Not resembling the team that earlier knocked off Top 10-ranked South Carolina and LSU, the injury-riddled Georgia Bulldogs committed every costly mistake known to man Saturday and watched Vanderbilt outscore them 17-0 in the final quarter to suffer a 31-27 upset loss and effectively see any lingering hopes of staying in the SEC title race fly away into the cool Nashville air.
Blowing a 27-14 second-half lead, the Bulldogs let the Commodores back in the game with a fumbled punt, a costly personal-foul penalty that enabled Vandy to pull within 27-21 and, horror of horrors, another high snap on a punt that give the Commodores the ball at the Georgia 13 and enabled Vanderbilt to tally the eventual winning touchdown on the very next snap, with just 2:53 left to play.
Falling to 4-3 overall, and most importantly 3-2 in the SEC, the Bulldogs now must lick their considerable wounds in this coming week’s open date before facing an also struggling Florida team, which was smacked 36-17 by division-leading Missouri Saturday.
Not much to say after this one and that’s how head coach Mark Richt felt immediately after what has to be one of the most disappointing setbacks in his 13 years in Athens.
“Well, the bottom line was we just didn’t get the job done,” said Richt. “Vanderbilt played a better game than we did. They deserved to win and my hat’s off to them. They just played better than we did and we’ve just got to get better if we expect to win another one,” is all Richt would say in response to a question about Georgia’s costly turnovers. “Vanderbilt really played well on defense, I thought. They held us to under 300 yards of offense for the first time in who knows how long,” Richt did add.
“It’s hard, I’m really at a loss for words right now,” said UGA senior defensive nose guard Garrison Smith. “We really should have won this game and I’m real disappointed that we lost. As a defense, we played our butt off. We’re not perfect and we had some uncontrollable factors go against us and they need to get worked out. We’ve just got to keep working. We can’t give up, the season’s not over and it’s a matter of pride now. These injuries, I’m not making excuses but it’s hard when you don’t have key people out there.”
The Bulldogs, getting good field position at their own 47 following a 15-yard penalty on the Commodores for not giving Reggie Davis enough room to field a punt, drove down to the Vandy 3 but then bogged down and had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Marshall Morgan. Thus Georgia led 3-0 with 9:55 left in the first quarter.
But the Commodores then came right back to go up 7-3. Behind Austyn Carta-Samuels’ strikes to ace receiver Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt marched 76 yards on 11 plays. The score came on a 4-yard run by Jerron Seymour, with 4:16 showing in the quarter.
But the next time the Bulldogs started at their 47, following a 15-yard punt return by Davis, Georgia went the distance this time. And it was the power running of freshman Brendan Douglas that carried the Bulldogs as he reeled off jaunts of 12, 16 and 16 again, his final run carrying to the Vanderbilt one-yard line, from where Aaron Murray sneaked over for the score. The touchdown came on the final play of the quarter and Morgan’s kick made it 10-7 Georgia at the end of the first.
But the Bulldogs’ lead didn’t last long as Vanderbilt ran the ensuing kickoff back to the 31 and then drove 69 yards to go back up 14-10. A half-the-distance penalty on Georgia defensive end Ray Drew for illegal targeting to Carta-Samuels’ helmet – which resulted in Drew’s ejection from the game – put the ball on the Bulldogs’ 10. Three plays later, Vandy lined up for a 20-yard field goal by Carey Spear and the Commodores successfully pulled off the fake with Spear taking the handoff from the holder and racing untouched into the end zone for six points instead of three. So with nine minutes remaining until halftime, Vanderbilt was up by four again.
And when the Bulldogs couldn’t move on the next possession, the Commodores began driving the ball again but, this time, the Georgia defense finally notched a turnover and, it was a big one. Picking off a short Carta-Samuels pass at the Vanderbilt 39, freshman corner Shaq Wiggins raced untouched to the end zone. Wiggins’ clutch play put the Bulldogs back into the lead at 17-14, with 6:24 until the intermission.
The Wiggins’ score no doubt invigorated Georgia because after the defense stopped the Dores and forced a punt, the Bulldogs took over at their own 46 and rode Murray’s passing and the running of Douglas and J.J. Green to a crucial score with just 27 seconds remaining in the half. Facing a fourth down and needing just a half yard to notch a first down at the Vanderbilt 1, Murray rolled right to pass but then kept the ball and stepped into the end zone for the touchdown. Morgan’s PAT kick would thus stake the Bulldogs to a 24-14 halftime advantage.
In the third quarter, the board would blink to 27-14 on a 23-yard Morgan field goal. Douglas’ running and Murray completions to Chris Conley and Rhett McGowan enabled the Bulldogs to drive to the Vandy 5 before Murray’s third down pass to Conley in the end zone fell incomplete and made for Morgan’s three-pointer with 6:24 to go in the third.
But the Bulldogs, rather than going on to put the game away, let the Commodores right back in it. After Damian Swann, back to field a punt for the first time in the contest, muffed the kick and Vanderbilt recovered at the Georgia 36. But as the game swung into the final period, it appeared the Georgia defense had the Commodores stopped when linebacker Ramik Wilson separated a would-be receiver from the ball on a fourth-and-four at the Bulldogs’ 30. But, alas, Wilson was hit with a questionable personal foul flag (a review overruled another targeting call) and the Dores were given a first down at the 15-yard line. Five plays later backup quarterback Patton Robinette kept two yards for the score and with 10:38 to go, Vanderbilt had pulled back within six at 27-21.
Again, the Bulldogs couldn’t move the ball and after a 52-yard punt by Collin Barber backed up the Commodores at their own 13, a 41-yard pass from Robinette to Jonathan Krause helped ignited a Vandy drive that carried all the way to the Georgia 10. But, there, Wilson atoned for his personal foul penalty by sacking the Commodore quarterback for a 13-yard loss, back to the 23. Then, on a 3rd-and-18, Swann tipped away what could have been a go-ahead TD pass in the end zone and the Commodores settled for a 40-yard field goal from Spear. But with 4:44 remaining, Vandy had pulled within 27-24.
And, minutes later, disaster was going to rise up and slap Georgia in the face once again. And, as you would expect, it was special teams that did the Bulldogs in. On fourth down Barber got a high snap that sailed through his hands and the Commodores were in business at the Georgia 13. Seymour then immediately raced over for the touchdown that drove the dagger into the Bulldogs’ collective hearts. With 2:53 remaining, the Commodores had their 31-27 upset victory. Any hopes Georgia had for another last minute drive went by the boards when Douglas fumbled away a completed pass at the Georgia 35. For some inexplicable reason, the Commodores would give the Bulldogs the ball back one last time when they missed a 45-yard field goal but Murray’s final last-gasp pass was intercepted to put the cap on a very dismal day for Georgia.
Murray passing Tim Tebow on the all-time SEC career yardage list (now with 12,327) was absolutely the only positive in a game such as this. Sure, the Bulldogs did some other good things in building the 27-14 lead but it all went for naught when Georgia took its pedal off the gas at Vanderbilt Stadium.
What Didn’t Work
Costly penalties, muffed punts, a terrible punt snap, lost fumbles, shoddy run blocking and pass protection (107 yards rushing, 114 passing), conservative play calling when the Bulldogs were on the verge of putting the Commodores away and, yes, a Georgia defense again giving up more than 30 points once again ….. all of this is the reason you can’t defeat a struggling Vanderbilt football team.
Wiggins had the pick-six, Corey Moore also had an interception on a deflected pass and Jordan Jenkins recorded a pair of sacks for the Bulldog defense. Douglas ran for 84 yards on 17 carries but had the costly fumble near game’s end, and Conley snared five passes for 50 yards.
Only Pride Left to Play For Now
Who would have thought the Georgia-Florida game would be only for rival bragging rights rather than a possible berth in the SEC title game? But that’s what the Nov. 2 game in Jacksonville has now become. End of story!
“This is a much needed open date,” said Murray, who passed for only 114 yards on 16-0f-28, with one interception. “We’ve got to figure this out. Do some soul searching and really figure out what we need to do individually and as a team to get better. There are still a lot of great games left, a big game versus Florida in a couple weeks. We got to put this one behind us, get back to work, find a way and like I said, just keep getting better.”