NASHVILLE — Kirby Smart was a conflicted man Saturday night.
The coach of the No. 3-ranked Georgia Bulldogs was proud of his team, happy to get the win in the books, but aware things have to get better.
“We grew up some tonight, but guys, we haven’t scratched the surface of where we can go, we have so many things that we can improve on,” Smart said at Vanderbilt Stadium following Georgia’s 30-6 win.
“This team has to decide if they want to get better — that’s all I’m asking them — ‘Do you want to get better, or are you just OK being good?’ “ Smart said. “Good is not going to be good enough.”
The Georgia offseason team mantra to “Do More” has carried into the regular season and will still apply for Murray State up next on the schedule.
The Bulldogs marched down the field on their first three possessions, looking every bit like a national champion in the making. Impressive drives finished with touchdowns, making it 21-0 by the midway point of the second quarter.
From there, Georgia’s offense bogged down, unable to handle the challenges created by Vanderbilt’s multiple fronts.
Smart will demand progress from offensive coordinator James Coley and quarterback Jake Fromm moving forward. The Bulldogs 1-of-7 conversion rate on third downs simply won’t do.
“We have to be able to expand and do more things, and throw the ball down field, stretch the field and get some of the wideouts involved,” Smart said. “I think Jake can do that, (and) we have to be able to protect him to do that.”
Georgia’s defense, meanwhile, was mostly impressive outside of a few costly personal foul penalties.
Vanderbilt’s so-called “Big Three” was mostly held in check, tailback Ke’Shawn Vaughn doing the most damage with 98 total yards.
The Commodores longest offensive play of the night was a mere 23 yards, and Vaughn was held to 4.9 yards per carry (15-74) and 24 yards receiving on three catches.
Receiver Kalija Lipscomb and tight end Jared Pinkney, considered two of the best at their respective positions in the SEC, were held to 3 catches for 8 yards (Lipscomb) and 2 catches for 11 yards (Pinkney).
“We can have a good defense because we’ve got a lot of speed,” Smart said. “We need some more activity up there in the front. We need to make some more tackles.
“I thought we had havoc tonight. I don’t know what our rate was. I’ll have to wait and see what our numbers were. Between batted balls, between the sacks, the attacking of the ball, I thought they played really good in regards to that.”
The Bulldogs’ defensive front had two sacks and recorded four QB hurries, unsettling Vandy quarterback Riley Neal in the second half.
Neal started the game 11-of-13 passing for 63 yards, but in the second half, he was just 3-of-12 passing for 22 yards.
On the injury front, Smart said right tackle Isaiah Wilson, who left the game with a mild injury before returning, will be fine.
The same might not be true of redshirt freshman Kearis Jackson, who was forced out of the game with a hand injury and was seen in a splint before leaving the stadium. Jackson, who made his first career start, fumbled at the end of a 32-yard catch at the Vanderbilt 5-yard line.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Smart said. “We had a lot of undisciplined penalties and didn’t play efficiently in the second half offensively, but I’m proud of our guys.”
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart
— Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) September 1, 2019