As with many of our wins in Nashville, Saturday wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. 31-14 looks a lot better than the disaster of mistakes and errors of 2013. The defense proved to be the difference by causing mistakes and suffocating the Vanderbilt running game. The offense did enough to win the game with the running game once again flexing its muscle. Let’s get to the rundown.
What Went Well
Chubb & Michel
The sophomore star duo combined for 245 yards and 1 TD on the ground. Nick Chubb continued to pile on the yards with 189 yards including a 68-yarder, and Sony Michel contributed 86 all-purpose yards including a 31-yard TD run. These two complement each other so well and really put pressure on defenses to counter their running styles. As we all know, they are both game-breaking difference makers that can take it to the house from any point on the field.
The defensive front 7 absolutely stoned the Vanderbilt running game as the Commodores could only muster 105 yards on 39 attempts with 30 of those yards coming on a late QB scramble and a run by the punter on a mishandled snap. The Dawgs rang up 3 sacks and applied pressure on Johnny McCrary all afternoon. Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd and Davin Bellamy seemed to be everywhere. Chris Mayes and Sterling Bailey seemed to spend most of the day in the Dores’ backfield. Vandy looked to be holding all day long and still couldn’t block the Georgia defensive front.
The Human Joystick made his presence felt with a tone-setting 77-yard punt return to electrify the Georgia crowd in Nashville. I have a feeling that not many teams are going to continue to kick the ball to McKenzie. He also almost broke a big run on an end around. He’s another guy who is a big play just waiting to happen.
The Georgia interwebs have been in full meltdown mode about the quarterback play on Saturday. I’m sure Greyson Lambert would agree that he did not play well on Saturday, but he hung in there when it could have been easier to go back into his UVA shell. Other Georgia quarterbacks have struggled in games in Nashville, so let’s just add Lambert’s name to that list. Hopefully, the bad game is over and done with for the season.
At times, the defense struggled to keep McCrary in the pocket. As a result, he kept some plays alive with his feet and converted some 3rd downs. In particular, Dominick Sanders didn’t play his assignment to set the edge on the 2-point conversion, and McCrary got outside to convert the 2-point play. We’re going to see other mobile quarterbacks during the season, and it’s going to be necessary to keep them in the pocket where we have a decided advantage with our pass rush.
What is it about Nashville and special teams breakdowns? In 2011, we gave up a fake punt, kickoff return for a TD, and a blocked punt. The special teams meltdown of 2013 doesn’t need to be revisited. This year, Marshall Morgan misses two FGs (one badly and another just wide). Collin Barber was very average after a good day the week before. Natrez Patrick took a bad angle to allow the Vandy punter to run for a first down after a muffed snap. I could see from my TV what was going to happen on the onside kick that turned into a pooch kick.
The worst rule in college football rears its ugly head in Nashville again. On a play similar to Ray Drew’s ejection in 2013, Lorenzo Carter gets flagged for a targeting penalty for a hit on McCrary that wasn’t called roughing the passer. It was a clean play where he wrapped up and didn’t lead with his head. The SEC needs to take a critical look at how officials are making this call. It shouldn’t be flagged just to be sent to the replay booth when it’s questionable. I think we all know when a player gets targeted and Zo’s hit wasn’t.
Player of the Game
I don’t think my selection of the player of the game is going to surprise anyone … It’s Jordan Jenkins and it wasn’t even close. He played at a high level recording 11 tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. He made it clear that the defense was going to be ready to play during the week and certainly held up his end of the bargain. He has been an absolute beast on the outside the first two weeks of the season. I hope that’s a harbinger for good things to come the rest of the season.
Offense – C
Saturday was a day to forget for the Georgia offense even with 422 yards of total offense. 2 missed field goals and one goal-to-go series that ended with a field goal left points on the field that could have made the margin of victory much wider than it ended up. If this offense can’t find a consistent passing game, we are going to have trouble moving the ball against many of the defenses we have left to play … in particular, Alabama.
Defense – B+
The defense was headed to an A for the effort until the defense with a lot of 2nd teamers gave up a lot of yards late in the game. When Floyd and Jenkins play the way they did on Saturday, this defense is something to watch. I hope we are seeing the emergence of a force at nose tackle in Chris Mayes. I can’t wait to see this defense put it all together for 60 minutes. I hope that happens this coming week and on October 3.
Coaching – B
The coaches had the team especially the defense ready to play. Pruitt knew he had an overwhelming talent advantage against the Vanderbilt offense and made sure the first teamers focused on the task at hand. Schottenheimer didn’t have a great day and called a game like Bobo would have in 2010 when he had the training wheels on Aaron Murray. Whoever came up with the “hands” team alignment needs to reconsider our approach to managing onside kickoffs.
Overall – B-
This game could have and probably should have been a rout with the effort the defense gave in the first 3 quarters, but the Georgia offense didn’t take advantage of opportunities. With a couple of exceptions, another effort like this will get this team beaten and, possibly, taken to the woodshed at some point in the season. With the apparent challenges at quarterback, the margin of error for this team has shrunk. We better find a solution and find it fast because …
Look Ahead to USCe
Steve Spurrier may be making his last appearance in Sanford Stadium on Saturday. We still owe him a trip to the woodshed for 1995 and his classless actions in that game. The Dawgs opened tonight as a heavy favorite in Vegas for the showdown in Athens on Saturday with South Carolina. The Gamecocks haven’t been impressive in their first two games, a win against the “real Carolina” (UNC) and a home loss that had nothing to do with basketball to Kentucky. I guarantee Darth Visor is going to have something cooked up for this game. The Gamecock offense has a couple of excellent running backs and, of course, Pharaoh Cooper, who will be lined up everywhere. The big question is whether Spurrier can get his quarterback prepared to face the Georgia defense and Pruitt can take lessons learned from last year to shut down the USCe offense. South Carolina appears to be better on defense, but they weren’t very good in the 1st half on Saturday night and couldn’t get a stop late to try to win the game. The talent edge appears to be clearly on the Georgia side of the ledger. The SEC’s 2nd best coach of all time (sorry, Gators and Cocks, the best is still the Bear) will have a plan and will coach his team up to play well. In the end, the talent edge and the home field advantage win this year, and the Dawgs move one step closer to October 3.