Georgia avoids letdown, jumps on Vandy early

The Georgia Bulldogs improved to 4-1 on the season with a 30-14 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores during a rain-soaked afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — If there was any letdown by Georgia Saturday, it came in the second half.

Before its 30-14 victory over Vanderbilt was muddied with three lost fumbles in the second half, however, Georgia already had made its point.

"We talked about that all week; nobody on the team was going to have a letdown,'' said receiver Terrence Edwards after the rain-soaked victory at Vanderbilt Stadium.

From Georgia's first snap from scrimmage, when Edwards took a lateral from quarterback David Greene and heaved the ball deep downfield toward running back Verron Haynes, it was clear Georgia would not rest on last week's victory at Tennessee.

The game-opening trick play ended with a pass interference call against Vanderbilt, and on their next four plays the Bulldogs gained 12 yards on a pass to Randy McMichael, seven yards on a run by Haynes, 21 yards on another pass to McMichael and three yards on a touchdown run by Musa Smith.

Sprinting down the field almost as quickly as in its last-minute, game-winning drive over Tennessee last week, Georgia set the pace for its impressive first half with the opening drive.

More momentum was gained on a goal-line stand from the defense on Vanderbilt's first drive. Defensive tackle Ken Veal made the stop on running back Lew Thomas on fourth and goal from the 1.

After Smith added a 40-yard touchdown run and freshman Fred Gibson continued to emerge as a big-play receiver with a 58-yard scoring catch, Georgia led 21-0 in the second quarter and 24-7 at halftime.

Some locals in the Vanderbilt homecoming crowd of 31,847 began leaving in the third quarter. It was the smallest crowd to watch Georgia in a SEC game since 1995.

By the midpoint of the final quarter, there were more Georgia-red rain ponchos than the yellow or gold worn by the home fans. Taking its second win in this state in as many weeks, it was as if Georgia had claimed Vanderbilt Stadium as its own.

Knowing that bad weather was coming and would make any offensive progress more treacherous in the second half, the strong start was especially decisive. Sure enough, the second half was played under a light but steady rain.

"We knew the weather was coming,'' said Georgia coach Mark Richt. "We said the team in the lead when the weather comes is probably going to have the best chance.''

By the time 19th-ranked Georgia (4-1 overall, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) was boarding its flight for Atlanta, Arkansas had completed its 10-7 win over South Carolina. Thanks to losses by South Carolina and Florida loss, Georgia is back in the thick of the SEC East race. Georgia is now tied for first place.

The Bulldogs play host to Kentucky next Saturday at 1 p.m.

In the second half, Smith lost a fumble in Vanderbilt territory, Damien Gary fumbled a punt and Kenny Bailey set up the Commodores' only second-half points when he lost a fumble at the Georgia 20.

Adding to the ugliness were 12 penalties for 76 yards, including a rash of holding calls against the offensive line and two two personal foul calls.

"We're still not hitting on all cylinders like we need to be,'' Richt said.

"If we don't continue to get better, that victory over Tennessee will just be one great day.''

But Vanderbilt (1-4 overall, 0-3 SEC) saw enough to be impressed.

Going back to last season's loss to Tennessee by two points and three-point losses to Auburn and Alabama this year, the Commodores had grown accustomed to standing toe-to-toe with any SEC opponent. Against Georgia, the Commodores were playing from behind the whole way.

"This is definitely the best team we have faced yet,'' said Vanderbilt quarterback Greg Zolman, who completed 24 of 50 passes for 316 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

Added Vanderbilt coach Woody Widenhofer: "This was the first ballgame that we good whupped this year. ... They just executed better than we did, especially in the first half.''

Though Richt was not satisfied with the second-half breakdowns, the emphasis all week had been on a strong start. On that account, Georgia delivered, and on this day, that was enough for the win.

Said Edwards: "Our coaches wouldn't let us play flat today. Our captains wouldn't let us play flat today. People were saying this could have been the biggest upset in Georgia history, but we knew we couldn't have a letdown.''

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