The Georgia Bulldogs rewarded another massive road takeover by their fan base with a solid-but-not-flashy 30-6 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead and, after a somewhat sloppy rest of the first half, simply pulled away from the Commodores with their wealth of overall talent. Running back D’Andre Swift picked up where he left off at the end of the regular season last year with 149 rushing and quarterback Jake Fromm added a touchdown pass on a day the he really didn’t throw it very much (15-of-23 for 156 yards).
Junior Demetris Robertson had a good day in his second season as a Georgia receiver. He broke his reception and touchdown catch drought in one fell swoop in the first quarter with a 3-yard catch in the back of the end zone. He had another catch and two runs totaling 29 yards to answer one of the Bulldogs’ calls for another receiving target.
The highlight for the tens of thousands of Georgia fans probably was the play of running back Zamir White, who got a lot of work late in the game. The redshirt freshman nicknamed “Zeus” heard his nickname chanted each time he came into the game. He had 51 yards on five carries
Rodrigo Blankenship kicked three field goals, including a 50-yarder that would’ve been good from much farther. With his three extra points in the first half, he moved up to third in SEC history for consecutive PATs in his career with 157. The SEC record is 198 held by Auburn’s Daniel Carlson with 198. Blankenship already owns the Bulldogs record.
In between those stellar moments was a lot of first-game sloppiness. The Bulldogs did as a lot to help keep Vanderbilt in the game. They fell victim to a fake punt, committed three 15-yard personal-foul penalties that sustained Vanderbilt drives, and had several other big plays negated by penalties or mistakes like letting a knee touch the ground while fielding a punt or Kearis Jackson fumbling the ball away after being tackled at the end of a 32-yard catch ended at the Commodores’ 5-yard line. But 21-6 was close as the Commodores could make it, and Georgia never felt insecure in the game’s outcome.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Georgia coach Kirby 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. I don’t take it lightly when you go on the road in an SEC opener and you open up with two or three touchdowns in a row. I think that’s big.”
With the victory, the Bulldogs improve to 1-0 on the season and 1-0 in the SEC. Georgia’s SEC East winning streak extends to 14 games, with the margin of victory in those games approaching three touchdowns.
Next up for the Bulldogs is a date with Murray State of the FCS at 4 p.m. Saturday. Vanderbilt falls to 0-1 with a trip to Purdue scheduled for Saturday.
As predicted, the 40,500-seat facility was three-quarters filled with Georgia fans, validating predictions that as many as 30,000 of the Bulldogs faithful would be attending the game. It’s possible that more of that didn’t bother to come into the stadium as a red theme covered the landscape in all directions outside of the stadium.
“I think it was pretty obvious that they seemed like they took over the majority of that stadium,” Smart said of the pro-Georgia crowd. “It felt like a home game with the people there, the fourth-quarter lights. It was pretty special. I think they travel well, I think Nashville is a great place to go our and fans came to be part of it.”
There was a lot to be excited about as the Bulldogs not only were playing an SEC season opener on the road for the first time in 25 years, but doing it against an opponent everybody was reasonably sure Georgia would dominate. Georgia entered the game as a 21.5-point favorite.
The Bulldogs would reward their loyal following quickly, scoring on the game’s opening drive and taking just four minutes to do so. Junior Demetris Robertson, denied a reception and receiving touchdown last season, checked off both on one play with a 3-yard score on a crossing route across the back of the end zone. That took just 3:59 off the clock.
Vandy ran six plays before having to punt the ball back, and Georgia scored again. After a holding penalty by Isaiah Wilson negated what would’ve been a 53-yard pass by Fromm. But Fromm came back to Robertson for a 17-yard completion on the next play and Robertson for another 15 on an end-around. That would set-up an 18-yard score from running back James Cook around left end. With 56 seconds still remaining in the first quarter, Georgia led 14-0.
And so it went. On a day when former Georgia quarterbacks Jacob Eason (349 yards passing 4 TDs for Washington) and Justin Fields (234 yards, 4 TDs, 1 TD run for Ohio State) had big days for their new teams, Fromm was having a good one for his old one. The junior and third-year starter was 7-of-8 for 97 yards passing and a touchdown through a quarter and a half. At that point, the Bulldogs already were up 21-0.
“We learned that we can come out and we can run the football,” Fromm said of Georgia’s 325 yards rushing. “We learned t
Helped by three 15-yard personal-foul penalties, Vandy was able to get on the scoreboard with a pair of second-quarter field goals. The second one was a 46-yarder and came with four seconds remaining in the half.
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