ATHENS — Well, we can only assume Georgia has reached a low point. Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs can only hope so, because this one was bad.
Georgia lost to Vanderbilt 17-16 on Homecoming Day Saturday. It was the first SEC road win for the Commodores (3-4, 1-3 SEC) in three years under coach Derek Mason. They were 0-9 previously. It was Vanderbilt’s first win in Sanford Stadium since 2006 and only the second since 1995.
“It’s not acceptable,” Georgia’s first-year head coach Kirby Smart said. “I’m upset about it. And I think the best thing you do is you go to work. The only thing we can do as a team is look ourselves in the mirror, each individual guy – starting with me – (and say), ‘What can I do better to help this team?’ We have to improve. We have to get better.”
Georgia falls to 4-3 and 2-3 in conference play. The Bulldogs have a week off before traveling to Jacksonville, Fla., to face Florida on Oct. 29.
Here’s how it broke down:
- Star(s) of game: Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham, the SEC’s tackle leader, had 19 in the game. Included in that number was a stop of Isaiah McKenzie on fourth-and-1 at the Vanderbilt 41 with 53 seconds remaining in the game.
- Turning point: Georgia had limited Vanderbilt to just 85 total yards well into the fourth quarter, then the Commodores went on a seven-play, 75-yard drive to take a 17-16 lead. Ralph Webb gained 37 yards on third-and-long to put Vandy in scoring position. Khari Blasingame scored from two yards out three plays later.
- Questions answered: Yes, Georgia can make a field goal. In fact, Rodrigo Blankenship made three of them, and one of them was big time. Blankenship made the Bulldogs’ longest kick of the year — 45 yards — with room to spare. He was set to try a 54-yarder at the end of the first half, but Kirby Smart elected to try a Hail Mary pass after Vanderbilt called back-to-back timeouts. Blankenship is 4-for-5 this year.
- Questions looming: Can Georgia do anything about its terrible special teams play between now and the Florida game in Jacksonville in two weeks? Never mind the placement kicks, the Bulldogs had several major breakdowns in other areas, including Vanderbilt’s 95-yard kickoff return to open the game and Reggie Davis stepping out of bounds after fielding a kickoff return on the 3. Isaiah McKenzie also struggled on judgment calls fielding punts.
- Statistically speaking: Once again, Georgia couldn’t run the ball. Six days after rushing for 326 yards against South Carolina, Georgia managed just 75 on 35 carries against the Commordores.
- What it means: Georgia is what it is at this point, a very average team that will have to fight tooth-and-nail for every victory all year, regardless of opponent.