ATHENS — Derek Mason said Vanderbilt’s inability to convert on short yardage spelled doom against Georgia Saturday night.
“We did a solid job in the first half, I thought key play for us in that first half was probably third-and-one (and) fourth-and-one, and not converting on those opportunities.”
The Bulldogs defense stepped up and stopped the Commodores on a third-and-1 at the Georgia 5 in the first quarter, and again in the second quarter, squashing a fourth-and-1 at the Bulldogs’ 14 to protect a 7-3 lead.
“I didn’t know how many more times we’d have that opportunity to get down there,” Mason said. “I hoped that would spark us in the first half.”
Instead, the stops put energy into the Georgia football team and the 92,746 in Sanford Stadium.
The Bulldogs were a 26-point favorite and showed why, pulling away for a 41-13 victory over the Commodores after a hard-fought quarter-and-a-half.
“I thought we played a good quarter and 12 minutes of football, and then we take maybe three minutes and allow him to get hot,” Mason said, referring to Georgia QB Jake Fromm engineering a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive the final 2 1/2 minutes of the first half.
“Hats off to Georgia, they are a really good football team, they made plays when they needed to,” Mason said. “We leaked in the pass game, I thought for the most part early in the game we stopped the run, but too many late yards in this ball game to say it was a good outing at all.”
The Bulldogs outgained the Commodores in the second half 297-91, getting 163 of those yards on the ground.
Vanderbilt had actually out-rushed Georgia in the first half 91 yards to 56 yards and held a commanding advantage in time of possession, 19:47 to 10:13.
But the Bulldogs got the ball first in the second half, and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney adjusted beautifully.
Georgia put together three third quarter scoring drives that consumed more than 10 minutes on 25 plays.
“At the end of the day, we wore down,” Mason said. “We knew the margin for error was slim.
“They’re a strong team in all phases, they play hard, they don’t make a lot of mistakes.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart has alluded to his offense’s ability to wear out teams several times this season.
“I keep saying it, nobody believes me, when they set their cleats in the ground, it’s really hard to run the ball early in our conference,” Smart said. “So on every run, there’s a 320 -man leaning on you, eventually you get tired of 320-pound men leaning on you, and you continue to do that, it wears people down.
“There’s no magical schemes, there’s no invented plays, we run the same plays in the second half we run in the first half, they just get tired.”
Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmur said despite some good moments, the Commodores didn’t play well enough.
“There were some times where we moved the ball pretty well,” Shurmur said. But we have to finish, and it doesn’t mean anything unless you finish with points.”