Georgia football had every right to run the score up on Vanderbilt on Saturday after the Commodores canceled out on playing the Bulldogs last season.
Not once, but twice, Vanderbilt cited COVID concerns for not making the trip to Athens, while managing to gather enough players to squeeze in a game with Tennessee in between.
But Georgia did not run up the score.
In fact, it appeared Kirby Smart was bending over backward not to embarrass the Commodores in Nashville.
Smart put the brakes on early against Vanderbilt, pulling his starting quarterback in the first quarter.
The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs had the air flaps on the entirety of the fourth quarter, too, gaining only 31 of their 524 yards over the final 15 minutes with no pass plays.
Here’s a quick look at how Georgia graded out:
JT Daniels was an A-plus, 9-of-10 passing for 121 yards with 2 touchdowns, and the only incompletion was a dropped pass. Stetson Bennett had an interception but was mostly decent, 11-of-15 passing for 151 yards with a TD and interception. Carson Beck was an uninspiring 1-of-3 passing for 11 yards.
Running backs (B)
James Cook was stopped on a fourth-and-1 at the Vanderbilt 3. Four games into the season, the longest run is 23 yards. Zamir White, James Cook, Kenny McIntosh and Daijun Edwards were efficient but not dynamic against what Smart said was a loaded box throughout the action.
Brock Bowers gets grouped in and that raises the grade, as the freshman produced 3 touchdowns with 4 catches for 69 yards and had a 12-yard touchdown run. Ladd McConkey had a strong performance, as well, with 4 catches for 62 yards and the longest run of the season on a 24-yarder. Justin Robinson, who dropped a pass earlier, provided a block. Jermaine Burton also got a call out for a TD-springing block.
Offensive Line (B-)
Not as much of a push in the run game as Georgia is accustomed to getting, and Smart said the line is more athletic and not as massive. There were three false starts inside the 10-yard line on one series in the fourth quarter with Carson Beck under center and doing a hard count.
Defensive Line (A-)
Dominant effort throughout the afternoon holding Vanderbilt to 53 yards rushing on 28 attempts. Jalen Carter did get a personal foul, so a slight downgrade for that, but Carter was extremely active and created issues. Jordan Davis only saw 9 snaps, so it was an opportunity for young players to get valuable reps.
Robert Beal had the only sack in the game and tied Nakobe Dean and Nolan Smith for team honors with three tackles. MJ Sherman missed a tackle in the backfield that would have been a sack. Perhaps most impressively, the linebackers appear to consistently plug gaps and communicate well for proper alignments.
Veteran Christoper Smith had an alert interception off of a pass deflection, and freshman Kamari Lassiter skied high to get his first career interception. Latavious Brini was solid with 3 tackles and a pass break-up. Lewis Cine also had 2 tackles and a pass break-up, while Kelee Ringo had two PBUs.
Specials Teams (A)
Georgia kicker Jack Podlesny found his groove with field goal makes of 31 and 36 yards. Robert Beal forced a fumble that Daijun Edwards recovered to set up a touchdown. Jake Camarda had only two punts, averaging 35 yards and dropping once inside the Vandy 20. Ladd McConkey looked good on two punt returns for 19 yards.
Kirby Smart has put together a championship-caliber team, and the Bulldogs looked every bit the part in the first quarter. Georgia was plugged in to the extent many wanted to see more of that in the second quarter. A 35-point first quarter was followed by a 3-point second quarter.
Georgia looked as good as it has since 2017, albeit, against a downtrodden, overmatched Vanderbilt team. Smart was able to play a lot of players with 24 different defenders making a tackle and three quarterbacks taking reps.