NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There was no letdown. There were no distractions, or at least they didn’t matter. And increasingly there appears there may not be a quarterback controversy. Georgia just kept rolling.
This one looked the way the past few have looked, and perhaps even better when the overall picture is taken into account.
Georgia didn’t just ride its defense in rolling over Vanderbilt on Saturday, 45-14. In fact, the defense was leaky for one half — giving up, gasp, a touchdown — but the offense made up for it.
Nick Chubb and Sony Michel did what they usually do when they have running room, combining for 288 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.
The offensive line had perhaps its best game of the season, creating that running room as Georgia amassed the most rushing yards of the Kirby Smart era.
And Jake Fromm continued to be efficient and clutch, both passing and running: 7 for 11 for 102 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, and 36 rushing yards.. The freshman played every down until the fourth quarter, even with Jacob Eason supposedly closer to full health. Fromm also played like someone wanting to hold off the incoming 5-star recruit, Justin Fields, who committed 24 hours earlier.
Georgia easily covered the spread (17 points) and avenged its 1-point home loss to Vanderbilt last year. And if such comparisons are useful, the Bulldogs had a much easier time with the Commodores than Georgia’s opponent later this month (Florida won 38-24 in Gainesville) but wasn’t quite as dominant as its potential SEC championship opponent (Alabama trounced Vanderbilt 59-0 two weeks earlier).
That all can wait. The takeaway from this game is that once again Georgia (6-0, 3-0 in the SEC) did not play down to an opponent, even with injuries and off-field distractions.
The absence of defensive tackle Trenton Thompson (knee injury) and inside linebacker Natrez Patrick (suspended after a marijuana arrest two nights before) may have hurt the defense early on. Georgia’s defense gave up a touchdown for the first time in SEC play, and for the first time since the Sept. 21, the fourth quarter of the Samford game. In fact, UGA’s defense ended up going 163 minutes and 21 seconds of game action without allowing a team into the end zone.
Smart apparently called out the defense at halftime, saying in his halftime radio interview that the defense was “playing like crap” and the “offense is carrying us.” Neither of those sentences had been uttered during Georgia’s first five games.
The defense heeded the criticism, forcing three-and-outs on Vanderbilt’s first two drives after the break. That set the tone that no comeback would occur.
Georgia has now emptied the bench in five of its six games, including all three SEC games. Missouri comes in next week, and then the Florida game begins a final stretch that will determine whether this season goes down among the greats in Georgia history.
The first half of the regular season concluded on Saturday. It was hard to deny that part wasn’t great.