Said quarterback David Greene: "Today we may have finally played to our potential.''
Though it entered Saturday's homecoming game unbeaten, Georgia ranked 94th in the nation in total offense and 95th in rushing offense. Strong special teams and defense had carried Georgia through its first six wins, but the growing concern was a lack of offense would keep the Bulldogs from realizing their dream of a Southeastern Conference championship.
As an answer, Greene connected on his first 11 passes and Georgia scored on its first eight possessions as the offense gained 606 yards - the seventh-highest total in school history.
"OK, I can finally smile a little bit,'' said Coach Mark Richt.
The confidence boost for the offense comes just in time, because Vanderbilt (1-6 overall, 0-4 SEC) was the last team left on Georgia's schedule that does not have a winning record. Georgia (7-0 overall, 4-0 SEC) plays at Kentucky next Saturday. Kentucky (5-2 overall, 1-2 SEC) took an impressive 29-17 win at Arkansas Saturday.
With both teams winning Saturday, CBS began promoting its telecast of next week's Georgia-Kentucky game in Lexington, Ky. Though the official announcement from the network will come today, CBS apparently made the quick decision Saturday to televise next week's game, with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff. It exercised a six-day option last Monday on picking a game for next week.
Greene played so well, completing 20 of 23 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns, that Richt was forced to push back his plans to use D.J. Shockley in the first half. When Shockley, making his return after missing four games with a broken foot, relieved Greene in the fourth quarter, he kept the momentum going by completing 7 of 9 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Musa Smith rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns, Terrence Edwards caught seven passes for 163 yards and a touchdown and tight end Ben Watson added five catches for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Jonathan Kilgo's only punt of the game for Georgia came midway through the fourth quarter when the offense finally stalled on its second possession with Shockley.
"This is huge for the offense,'' said backup tailback Tony Milton, who rushed for 21 yards on eight carries. "It's a big confidence boost to put up 48 points. The offense hasn't been clicking like everybody wanted. Today the offense had something to prove." Added Milton: "Now it's all coming together.''
The only negative of the day for Georgia was a sudden rash of injuries. Receiver Fred Gibson and Smith left with sprained thumbs and were to be x-rayed. Offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb left in the first quarter with a sprained knee. Also, defensive lineman Jonathan Sullivan was limited by a sprained ankle and cornerback Bruce Thornton was held out with a sprained ankle he aggravated in pregame warmups.
"We're banged up pretty good," Richt said. "I thought coming into the game we had been pretty fortunate with injuries."
At least until more is known about the injuries, Richt could enjoy his team's ability to avoid a letdown after big wins over Alabama and Tennessee. This is only the eighth time in school history that Georgia has started 7-0. The last time Georgia punted only once in a game was in a 38-7 win over Arkansas State in 1997.
"I'm relieved that we didn't lay an egg,'' Richt said. "I'm relieved we came out and played hard and very relieved the offense is beginning to look like it's supposed to look."
Though Smith ran hard in his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the year, Edwards enjoyed one of his best games and defensive end David Pollack continued to pile up big plays with a sack and a blocked punt, the key to the day was the near-perfect play of Greene.
"I felt sharp today,'' Greene said. "Guys were open. It was just a matter of throw and catch.''
Greene connected with Gibson on a 35-yard touchdown pass on Georgia's first possession and then pulled off a great acting job on a trick play that was good for a 65-yard touchdown pass to Edwards on the first play of the second quarter.
Greene faked a handoff to Smith, who also carried out his acting assignment well, and then held the ball against his hip, standing calmly and looking at Smith while Edwards broke free downfield. Greene then pulled the ball up and made the easy touchdown pass.
It was a good time for the offense to find itself, because Georgia had difficulty containing quarterback Jay Cutler and the Vanderbilt option attack. Cutler passed for 158 yards, rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown, and Kwane Doster added 118 yards rushing with a score as Vanderbilt finished with 392 yards of offense - the most allowed this season by Georgia.
"It was not a good defensive outing,'' Pollack said. "We gave up too many yards and too many first downs.'' Added Pollack of the 7-0 start: "It feels good, but we're not where we want