Explosive in the opening half and not so much over the final two quarters but, all in all, a good night for the 3rd-ranked Bulldogs as they kicked off the 2019 season with a 30-6 spanking of the Vanderbilt Commodores.
And while the Georgia offense put up most of its big numbers in the early part of the contest on its way to running for 325 yards and passing for 156 more – with the Bulldogs going on long touchdown drives the first three times they got the ball – it was a UGA defense that was steady the night long. Despite the Commodores owning three All-SEC talents in tailback Ke’Shawn Vaughn, wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb and tight end Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt couldn’t cross the goal line the evening long against a gang-tackling, ball-pursuing Georgia defensive unit. The ’Dores had to settle for just two first-half field goals by Ryley Guay.
Only a whopping 117 yards in penalties marred the Bulldogs’ opening debut at Vanderbilt Stadium, with many of those infractions, as you will see below, being damaging personal foul calls that negated some explosive plays by Georgia.
The Bulldogs, in their post-game remarks Saturday night, vowed those penalties won’t be recurring as the team gears up for the rugged SEC race ahead.
Plays of 20 plus yards, offense and defense
On its opening three touchdown marches, Georgia had a number of big gainers just under 20 yards that kept the sticks moving. But there were a 38-yard pass from Jake Fromm to Miami graduate transfer Lawrence Cager, a 36-yard jaunt by D’Andre Swift, a 23-yard run by Zamir (Zeus) White as he made his long-awaited Bulldog debut after two ACL surgeries, and a 32-yard pass from Fromm to Kearis Jackson which carried to the Vandy 3-yard line before the ball came out and was returned out to their own 17-yard line by the Commodores. The Bulldog defense allowed the Commodores only one 20-plus play all night .. a 23-yard reverse run by wideout Justice Shelton-Mosley.
Primarily, it was one personal foul penalty after another that was untimely for the Bulldogs. A holding call by tackle Isaiah Wilson nullified a long pass completion from Fromm to Demetris Robertson, Justin Young, Quay Walker and Richard LeCounte were all whistled for face-mask infractions, Tyler Simmons and Jermaine Johnson were tagged for blocks in the back, Divaad Wilson picked up a personal foul for a supposed late hit out of bounds, and Solomon Kindley and Ben Cleveland were cited for holding penalties. But, conversely, most all of those Bulldogs mentioned here otherwise turned in outstanding performances in this victory.
Special teams wins vs. miscues
Rodrigo Blankenship converted all three of his field goal attempts in the second half, from 50, 37 and 31 yards while also booting all of his kickoffs but two into the end zone for touchbacks. Jake Camarda averaged 54 yards on two punts including a 65-yarder that sailed into the end zone. Tyler Simmons had three punt returns for 55 yards while James Cook hauled back two kickoffs for 41 yards. And the Bulldogs’ kick coverage teams performed at a high level on opening night.
When you hold an opposing offense without a touchdown the entire game, along with just 116 yards rushing and 109 passing, there’s not many missed tackles to be found. The Georgia defense, under first-year coordinator Dan Lanning, quickly got to the football all night and had crushing hits on Vaughn and the Commodore backs.
The Bulldogs fumbled twice and lost one of them while Georgia recovered Vandy’s only fumble. Neither Fromm nor Commodore quarterback Riley Neal threw an interception.
Red Zone (offense/defense)
The Bulldogs cashed points on five of their six trips inside the red zone while the Commodores got inside the Georgia 20-yard line only twice, notching one of their two field goals on that excursion.
Third down conversions
Besides the 10 penalties, this was another area the Bulldogs didn’t do well in as they knocked out first downs only once in seven third-down tries. Vandy was even worse, going 3-for-14 in this category.
Run/pass attempts (total plays)
Behind Swift’s 149 yards rushing, the Bulldogs rumbled for 325 yards on the ground in 40 attempts and Fromm completed 15-of-23 passes for 156 yards. That’s 63 combined plays for 481 yards. Vanderbilt had 62 combined plays for its 225 yards of total offense.