Sloppy Vandy flirts with comeback

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- Vanderbilt fell to Georgia 31-14 on Saturday despite showing signs of life offensively. Three interceptions including one returned for a touchdown along with a punt returned for a touchdown proved to be too much for the Commodores to overcome.

Leading 24-6 with 1:47 left in the third quarter it looked like Georgia would prevail over Vanderbilt easily. After going up by 18, the Bulldogs were poised to extend their lead even more. However, a promising 13-play drive by the red clad visitors stalled at the Vandy 25 after Marshall Morgan's 43-yard field goal shanked badly to the left leaving the score at 24-6.

Now in the fourth quarter, Vandy's offense then drove to the Georgia 8 where the 'Dores faced a fourth down. However, another red zone trip failed when Vandy quarterback Johnny McCrary was tackled at the four and the ball went back over to the Bulldogs.

Vanderbilt still was not done though. Vandy's defense forced a three and out on the Bulldog's next possession. Vanderbilt and McCrary then quickly drove down the field in a drive which included an eight yard run by Webb and an 18-yard reception by DeAndre Woods. Latevius Rayford scored the Commodores second touchdown of the season when McCrary found him for a 7-yard scoring reception with 4:33 to play. McCrary then ran in for the 2-point conversion to pull the 'Dores to within 10 at 24-14.

Trailing by ten, Vanderbilt attempted an on-side kick which was recovered by Oren Burks at the Georgia 17. A penalty advanced the ball even further to the Bulldog 8. Suddenly the Commodores had a shot to pull within one score with 4:30 to play. However, the Commodores bubble would burst on the second play of the drive when McCrary threw his second pick of game into the end zone.

Later, with 1:11 to go, Georgia would administer the final death blow when yet another McCrary pass was intercepted at the Georgia 12. This one cruelly returned 88 yards by Bulldog safety Dominick Sanders for the final touchdown of the game.

Vanderbilt's defense wasn't perfect but did cause Georgia some problems in the first half. The score stood at 0-0 until late in the first quarter when Georgia's special teams would draw first blood. A Bulldog 77-yard punt return by Isaiah McKenzie put Georgia up 7-0 with 4:33 left in the quarter.

Vanderbilt responded with a drive that spanned into the second quarter, Vanderbilt's Dallas Rivers ran for two yards on a fourth-and 1 situation to keep the drive going. However, Vandy had to settle for a 48-yard Tommy Openshaw field goal after a big Georgia sack. Later in the second quarter a 31-yard run by Sony Michel gave Georgia its first offensive touchdown of the game with 9:34 left in the half.

Trailing 14-3, Vanderbilt again answered. This time with a 12 play, 55-yard drive to the Georgia 23. There Vanderbilt's Openshaw connected on his second field goal attempt of the day, this time from 41 yards. The Commodores would go to the locker room trailing an at least manageable 14-6.

On the first Commodore drive of the second half McCrary threw the first of his three interceptions, which was returned by Bulldog cornerback Reggie Wilkerson to the Commodore 42. That drive stalled at the VU 3 where Morgan's 20-yard field goal put the Bulldogs up 17-6.

After a Vandy three and out offensive series on its next drive, the Bulldogs took the ball from their own 34 and marched to the Commodore 5 where they faced a second-and goal situation. Bulldog quarterback Grayson Lambert faked a handoff and darted untouched into the end zone for a UGA touchdown. The point after kick gave Georgia its seemingly insurmountable 24-6 lead.

"I have to congratulate a very good Georgia team," said a somber Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason after the game. "They played hard. They made the plays they needed to make. We had a hard time stopping [Georgia running back Nick] Chubb. We had guys try, but you have to make plays. We had opportunities to win the ball game. These kids didn't give up on playing this game. They continued to play hard."

Vanderbilt kept heralded Bulldog running back Nick Chubb out of the end zone during the game but he still ran wild finishing with 19 carries for 189 yards (9.9 ypc). He had long runs of 68, 17, 21, 15 and 29.

Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb finished 25 carries for 68 yards (2.7 ypc) and was largely ineffective for the second week in a row. McCrary completed 24-of-50 passes for 295 yards, 1 touchdown and the trio of interceptions. Early in the game kicker Tommy Openshaw (photo above) ran 13 yards for a first down after fielding a low snap. For a short time Openshaw had more rushing yards than Nick Chubb.

Vanderbilt falls to 0-2 (0-1 SEC). The Commodores will host Austin Peay on Saturday. Georgia improves to 2-0 (1-0 SEC) and will face South Carolina next in Athens.


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