ATHENS – The Bulldogs have now hit rock bottom.
Georgia entered Saturday’s matchup against Vanderbilt with a clear goal now in mind, if they were to win out then the Bulldogs had hopes of winning the SEC East.
However, now that is no longer the case as stagnant offense and special teams blunders led to a 17-16 loss to Vanderbilt, who holds the worst record in the SEC East within conference at 0-4.
Jacob Eason: After a poor performance a weekend ago to South Carolina, in which the freshman went 5-17 for 29 yards, he was able to bounce back. Eason went 27-40 for 346 yards and a touchdown to freshman tight end Isaac Nauta. With Georgia having no success with the ground game, a good game was needed by Eason to give the Bulldogs a chance, and the loss to Vanderbilt is not credited to Eason’s performance.
Davin Bellamy: Junior outside linebacker Davin Bellamy had big expectations entering this season with the departure of Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins, and he had one of his best performances against the Commodores, playing a role in shutting down their star running back Ralph Webb. Bellamy recorded eight tackles, a half sack which was shared with freshman David Marshall and a tackle for loss.
Zach Cunningham: Georgia couldn’t muster anything significant on the ground against the stout Commodores’ defense, and junior Zach Cunningham was one of the reasons why due to a monster performance. One of Vanderbilt’s most dependable linebackers recorded nineteen total tackles including 2.5 tackles for loss.
Darrius Sims: Vanderbilt opened up the contest with a bang on Saturday as a major part of his impact came on the opening kickoff, returning Rodrigo Blankenship’s boot for 93 yards. His return set up the Commodores’ first scoring opportunity, a one-yard punch by Webb. Vanderbilt took the lead immediately and Georgia fans were experiencing the unexpected at Sanford Stadium. In addition to his return, he also received one rushing carry for eighteen yards.
Vanderbilt’s win could be credited by a few turning points, however it felt as if Georgia’s chance to be upset was legitimate when they took a 17-16 lead after a two-yard touchdown run by Khari Blasingame. The Commodores seemed to have no success offensively, but pass completions to Kalija Lipscomb and Webb, both of over 25 yards which set up the touchdown score.
Costly penalties: Georgia had costly penalties throughout the game, a total of eight penalties for 53 yards. The numerous penalties showed undisciplined football by the Bulldogs, which head coach Kirby Smart has addressed as a concern of his throughout the season. The most crucial penalty for the Bulldogs may have been on one of their final opportunity to score as Eason had a significant scramble for first down, only to be called back due to a holding penalty by senior Brandon Kublanow.
Special teams: Georgia’s special teams coverage was abysmal yet again as the previously mentioned return by Sims was costly, but inability to amass punt return yardage on punts by Sam Loy cost Georgia significant field position, which was due to poor coverage by Isaiah McKenzie’s supporting cast. However, Georgia did have one positive on special teams, which was in the place kicking department and the performance of redshirt sophomore Rodrigo Blankenship. As a team, Georgia had only made four field goals throughout the first six games of the season, but Blankenship converted on three field goals, from 45, 22 and 36 yards out.
THEY SAID IT
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason on Georgia’s running game: “I thought these guys were capable of doing whatever they set their minds to. You figure out who you are, you understand exactly what we try to do. Really, it’s a game. I don’t think they’re superior men, but they’re a really good football team. Those running backs are two of the best running backs in terms of a one-two tandem that we’ve faced, but again, our guys accepted the challenge. I put the challenge before them and they accepted it. Just play football.”
Smart on the loss: “We didn’t play very well. We didn’t coach very well. We didn’t come out with very good passion and energy. I was really disappointed in the start of the game, and we lost momentum in the half there.”
Isaiah McKenzie on the final play: “We felt good about the play. Even though they called the timeout and made some adjustments, we still felt good about. A guy came from the blind side and tackled me. He made a good play.”
Lorenzo Carter on defensive group: “It’s phenomenal that we held them under 200 yards, but we have to finish. It came down to them making big plays when they had to and us not stopping them. We need to make sure we work on finishing, getting off the field and executing the calls.”
NEXT FOR GEORGIA
The Bulldogs now have an off week after seven games to open the season. After their time off, Georgia will enter the home stretch and head to Jacksonville to play Florida on October 29 at 3:30p.m. on CBS.