Head-to-Head: Inside Vanderbilt vs. Georgia

This is the 67th game in the series. Georgia leads the series 47 to 17 with two ties. Since 1952, when the teams began to play every year except 1953, 1966, and 1967, Vandy has won just seven of the 51 games, and since 1962, Vandy has won just three of 42 games against Georgia.

Vanderbilt Vs. Georgia

Game 7

Saturday, 14-October-2006—11:30 AM CDT

 

Radio: WGFX 104.5 FM & Eight Affiliates + Sirius Radio

 

Georgia games are broadcast over one of the strongest radio stations in the nation.  Atlanta's WSB-AM 750 is a 50,000 watt, clear channel station that reaches out for 150 miles in all directions during the daylight hours.           

 

TV: Lincoln Financial Game of the Week (Channel 30/ Comcast Channel 14 in Nashville)

 

Weather Forecast: Sunny with temperatures rising from 40 degrees at sunrise to the low 60's by kickoff to the low 70's by the end of the game.  Low humidity and a gentle westerly breeze should make near ideal football playing conditions.

 

Getting There

 

From Nashville to Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia, is a little more than 300 miles and takes a little more than five hours to drive.  Remember, you will lose an hour driving there from Nashville, so if you leave the Music City Friday at 10 AM CDT, you will arrive in Athens past 4 PM EDT.  Of course, if you leave at that time, you will bog down in Atlanta and sit in traffic one hour to 90 minutes longer than you planned. (unless you bypass Atlanta as shown below)

 

1. The Direct Route Thru Atlanta (307 miles, 5 hours to 6 ½ hours depending on traffic in Atlanta)

 

Take I-24 East to Chattanooga.  After ascending Missionary Ridge, be on the lookout for I-75 South.  Take the right fork when I-24 ends at I-75, following the signs for Atlanta. 

 

Continue on I-75 South into Georgia (2 miles from where I-24 ends).  Dalton is an excellent stopping point for cheap gas and stocking up your cooler.  There is a Kroger Supermarket with gas just off the interstate at exit 333 (Walnut Ave.) in a shopping center surrounded by eateries.

 

As you drive into the Atlanta Metro area, watch signs for I-285.  Take Exit 259B, a ramp to the right, onto I-285 following signage for Greenville.  This is the East bypass of Atlanta, but it is anything but a bypass.  Traffic will be heavy on I-285 on Friday afternoon.  Sometimes, it can reach the same degree of congestion that you might see on the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago.

 

Follow I-285 to exit 33B, and leave I-285 for I-85 following signage for Greenville.  Watch for road construction on I-85 in the area near the Gwinnett Place Mall.  Continue on I-85 to State Route 316.  Leave I-85 for SR-316 following signs for Lawrenceville & Athens.

 

SR-316 will also become US Hwy. 29 and US Hwy. 78.  Continue straight on US 29/78. 

 

Take the ramp to the right to leave SR-316 and stay on US 29/78.  Follow US 29/78.  US Highway 129 will join this route.  At exit 6, leave US 29/129 for State Route 15A/Milledge Ave. & Whitehall Rd.  Turn left onto S. Milledge Ave.  Follow Milledge about a mile and a half to S. Lumpkin St.  Turn right on S. Lumpkin and follow it onto the University of Georgia campus.  Sanford Stadium will be on your right by turning right on Cedar St. and then left on Sanford Dr.

 

2. Bypassing Atlanta and all the headaches (305 miles just under 7 hours)

 

Follow I-24 to Chattanooga and I-75 South into Georgia just like the above route.  Leave I-75 at the Exit 336 cloverleaf (US41/US 76 Dalton) and turn right onto US41/76 toward Dalton (The Carpet Capital of the World).  Continue on the North Dalton Bypass US 41/76.  Follow US Hwy 76 (turning to stay on US 76 on the south side of Dalton) thru Chatsworth to US Highway 411. Turn right on US 411/US 76, and head south to Fairmount, Georgia.  Take a sharp left at State Highway 53.

 

Stay on Hwy 53 through Jasper, Dawsonville, Lumpkin, and into Gainesville (watch for Hwy. 53 signs, as you will have turns in some small towns).  Hwy 53 enters Gainesville on Washington St.  Jog left onto Grove Street, and then turn right onto US 129.

 

Follow US 129 South to Athens.  It will become Jefferson Road as you enter the area.  Do not get on the Athens Perimeter Highway when US 129 goes that way.  Continue straight on Alt-15/Prince Avenue.  Turn right on N. Milledge Ave., and then left onto Business Route 78 (BR-78)/State Hwy 10.

 

Take a right on Lumpkin, a left on Baldwin, and a right on Sanford.

 

The Statistics

 

Vanderbilt 0-3 in the SEC, 2-4 Overall

Georgia 2-1 in the SEC, 5-1 overall

 

This is the 67th game in the series.  Georgia leads the series 47 to 17 with two ties.  Since 1952, when the teams began to play every year except 1953, 1966, and 1967, Vandy has won just seven of the 51 games, and since 1962, Vandy has won just three of 42 games against Georgia.  The Commodores' last tie game was against Georgia in 1985.    In Athens, the Commodores last won on October 15, 1994.

 

Coming off a 34-24 win over a weak Cincinnati team after suffering a 42-6 blowout loss to Arkansas, nobody gave Vanderbilt a chance to win at Georgia in 1994, especially after the Bulldogs has just demolished Clemson 40-14.  With All-American candidate Eric Zeier operating under center and Hines Ward and Terrell Davis in the backfield for the Bulldogs, Georgia was a solid three touchdown favorite over the Commodores.  Of course, this was the game Georgia selected for homecoming, and a full house packed Sanford Stadium for the Jefferson Pilot SEC Game of the Week.  They expected a bloodbath.

 

Vanderbilt's quarterback was not an All-American.  In fact, he would finish his collegiate career as the number two quarterback at then Division I-AA Middle Tennessee.  But, on this day Ronnie Gordon would look more like Nebraska's Tommy Frazier.

 

The Commodores of Coach Gerry DiNardo ran the I-Bone offense.  Three backs aligned stacked behind the quarterback in this multiple veer play offense.  In the backfield with Gordon were tailbacks Jermaine Johnson and Cliff Deese, and fullbacks Eric Lewis and Paul Morgan.  Johnson, Deese, and Gordon carried the ball about 75% of the time.

 

Vanderbilt needed to get off to a good start to have any chance of staying close in this game, and that's exactly what happened.  Georgia kick returner Brice Hunter lost the opening kickoff in the sun.  The ball bounced behind him, and he fielded it and tried to come out of the end zone.  That was a huge mistake.  He got one yard past the goal line before the Commodores smothered him.  Two plays later, Zeier handed off to Ward just outside the end zone, and Vandy defensive tackle James Manley was there almost at the same time.  Manley popped the ball out of Ward's hands and into the air; it landed in the arms of Vandy's Robert Sheffield.  Sheffield's momentum placed him in the end zone when he found the ball in his hands.  When Eric Lanctot booted the point after, Vanderbilt led 7-0 just 37 seconds into the contest.

 

Zeier connected with Hason Graham for a 21 yard touchdown pass to tie the game less than two minutes later.  The Bulldogs drove 80 yards on just five passing plays.

 

After a Commodore punt, Zeier went back to work and quickly spotted Graham open deep over the middle for another quick touchdown.  The Bulldogs took a 14-7 lead and appeared to be ready to blow Vandy off the field.

 

Vanderbilt mounted a 69 yard drive on the next possession that allowed Lanctot to boot a 28 yard field goal.  At the end of the first quarter, Georgia led 14-10.

 

The second quarter saw Vandy run the I-bone the way Colorado ran it when DiNardo was their offensive coordinator.  Gordon handed to Johnson on a lead play, and Johnson broke through the line into open field.  Once in open field, nobody could catch up to a back with world-class sprinter's speed.  Johnson sped 45 yards for the score, and with the PAT, Vandy led once again at 17-14.

 

On Vandy's next possession, Gordon was sacked on first down but converted for a first down on the next play on a 17-yard pass to Lewis.  The drive continued down the field, where Gordon scored from the Georgia three on the keep option of the veer.  Vandy now led 24-14 in what was starting to look like a game out of the old American Football League.

 

Zeier quickly led Georgia back into the game with an 80-yard touchdown drive.  It started when the future All-Pro Davis broke free for a 25-yard burst and culminated when he dove over from the Commodore one.  That made the score 24-21 Vandy with half of the second quarter yet to play.

 

After an exchange of punts, Vandy started the next possession at their own 18 yard line; Vandy began the drive that would prove to be the stake in the hearts of the home team.  After picking up a first down at the 31, Vandy faced a 3rd and 8 from their 33.  Gordon kept the ball on the option and found a hole outside for 17 yards to midfield.  On the next play, wideout Kenny Simon ran the reverse off the option and fooled the Bulldog defense for a 32 yard gain to the Georgia 18.  As the clock continued to run, Vandy picked up a first down near the Georgia six.  With the clock ticking under 15 seconds, Gordon faked the dive part of the inside veer then fired a pop pass to Simon in the end zone for a big score.  The Gold Men took a 31-21 lead into the locker room, while thousands of Georgia alums and sidewalk alums turned as red as their team's uniforms.

 

Vanderbilt sealed the deal on the opening drive of the second half.  Keeping the ball on the ground for an 80-yard drive, the Commodores could do no wrong.  Johnson did most of the damage with consecutive runs of 26 and 14 yards.  Gordon then finished the deal on a keeper from 18 yards out.  The extra point was missed, and Vandy led 37-21.

 

Georgia finally moved the ball in the latter part of the quarter, but they stalled when Zeier threw three consecutive incomplete passes inside the Vandy 10. They had to settle for a short field goal.  After three quarters, the black and gold led 37-24, and Georgia's defensive front seven looked dog tired.    

 

Vandy wasn't finished.  On the first possession of the final period, the Commodores ran through Georgia much like many teams had done against Vanderbilt in the late 1970's.  A 15-play, 72-yard drive used up almost half the quarter.  Gordon finished it off with his third rushing and fourth total touchdown.  The PAT missed again, but the Commodores led 43-24 with seven minutes to go.

 

Georgia picked up a late touchdown on an 11 yard pass from Zeier to Ward, and they missed their extra point.  Vandy ran out the clock and won 43-30.  The Commodores finished with 415 rushing and 480 total yards while consuming almost 42 minutes of the clock.  Johnson led the team with 177 rushing yards, while Gordon finished with 126.

 

The Matchups

 

When Vanderbilt Runs The Ball

 

 Georgia is not an easy team to run against.  Vanderbilt must be successful running the ball in order to have any chance to win an SEC game.  Cassen Jackson-Garrison did not have a good day against Ole Miss, but the Rebels fell prey to numerous quarterback draws.  Don't expect the Bulldogs to allow that this week.  They will be prepared to stop the QB draw and the inside runs by CJG, and force Vandy to beat them with the forward pass.  It looks like one of those games where two or three quarterback sacks could make the rushing statistics look ugly.  Call it a sub-100 yard day on the ground for the Commodores.

 

When Georgia Runs The Ball

 

The Bulldogs are not going to dominate any SEC defense with their running game, but Vandy's defenders must respect the trio of Bulldog backs.  Kregg Lumpkin, Danny Ware, and Thomas Brown will get about 25 carries in this game for a combined 135-150 yards if the blocking holds up.  Throw in fullback Brannan Southerland, and Georgia will probably get at least two rushing touchdowns, again if the blocking develops.  If Vandy can penetrate and gain some control of the gaps, that number could be 30 yards lower. 

 

Vandy's first priority in this game is stopping the tailback power runs behind the blocking of tackle Daniel Inman and guard Chester Adams with fullback Southerland taking on a linebacker.  If you are watching this game on television, concentrate on those three players (Inman is #72, Adams is #67, and Southerland is #36).  If they are pushing Vandy's defensive line and linebackers off the ball and controlling the area, it's going to be a sad day for fans of the Commodores.  If, on the other hand, Curtis Gatewood, Ray Brown, Theo Horrocks, and the linebackers are penetrating the gaps on that side and shedding off blockers, Vandy can slow down the Bulldogs and force Joe Tereshinski to beat them through the air.  This is where the game should be partially decided.

 

When Vanderbilt Throws The Ball

 

Here's where the rest of the game will be decided.  Can Chris Nickson continue to play like he showed us last week?  If he isn't able to go, can Mackenzi Adams move the ball like he did last week and also avoid throwing the ball to the wrong jersey?  If the answers to both of these questions are "no," then Richard Kovalcheck might be in the game by the fourth quarter.

 

Vanderbilt just about must gain 200 yards passing in this game in order to be competitive.  Georgia's secondary can be exploited, as Erik Ainge showed last week.  Nickson, Adams, or Kovalcheck will have to be sharp in order to exploit the Bulldogs.  UGA won't hand it over to them.  If Vandy can attempt 30 passes and complete 17 for 200 yards with no interceptions, they will be in this one to the end.

 

When Georgia Throws The Ball

 

Expect the Bulldogs to throw early and often, trying to loosen up the Vandy defense for their tailbacks.  Tereshinski will look deep to Mohamed Massaquoi and A.J. Bryant trying to kill the confidence of the Commodore secondary.  Reshard Langford has been a monster this year, and he needs to make a name for himself tomorrow with a pickoff and a long return.  That will destroy the Bulldogs' already moribund confidence.  The Gold defense has the task of keeping it that way.  If Georgia throws for 200 yards, then the Commodore defense will probably break down and allow a bunch of good runs (unless Georgia gets 200 yards passing trying to catch and throwing 40 passes).

 

Special Teams Play

 

Vanderbilt has faced two really good special teams this year—against Michigan and Ole Miss—and they haven't been burned yet.  Now, the ‘Dores face the best all-around special teams they are going to see this year. 

 

It will be interesting to see how Vanderbilt's kick coverage fares against Georgia's kick return team.  Hopefully, this will be a multiple occurrence.  Brown can take one back with just a tiny opening, as he showed last week when he took one 99 yards against Tennessee.  This might be a week to have Bryant Hahnfeldt kick the ball high and short or hard and on the ground.  Many teams have a tough time fielding a hard-kicked grounder.

 

When Brett Upson punts, Mikey Henderson will be back to field it.  Henderson is about as dangerous as Desmond Howard on punt returns.  He has already reached pay dirt twice this year on just 12 returns.  Last week, he fielded a punt at his 14 yard line and took it to the house.   Former Kentucky and current New Mexico State coach Hal Mumme used to instruct his punter to punt the ball out of bounds, giving up about five yards but not allowing any punt return.  I think Coach Bobby Johnson would be pleased with 35 yard punts out of bounds in this game.

 

Georgia lost the league's best kicker about 10 days ago when Brandon Coatu was lost for the season.  They merely replaced him with a former starter who earned Freshman All-SEC honors two years ago.  Andy Bailey is highly skilled at his craft.

 

Hahnfeldt has struggled some this year; perhaps the wind-blown miss at the end of the Arkansas game created some mind games.  He has a strong leg, and he is quite accurate when he is on his game.  Vanderbilt cannot afford to come away empty handed on any possession that reaches the Bulldog 25 yard line.  Hahnfeldt needs to be back to normal this week.  Patrick Johnson is still around if needed.

 

The Predictions

 

PiRate: Georgia 28  Vanderbilt 13

 

Vanderbuilder's Guess: Georgia 28  Vanderbilt 10

 

Average of 42 Computer Rankings: Georgia by 16 points.  All 42 pick Georgia to win with a range of two to 28 points.  The majority pick the Bulldogs to win by 14 to 19 points. 

 

 

Summary:  The Bulldogs are still in the SEC East race.  A win tomorrow and a win over Mississippi State would set them up for a big game against Florida on October 28.  Had the Bulldogs beaten Tennessee last week, they might have overlooked this game.  Because they were totally embarrassed, they will be looking to take it out on the next opponent.  The Bulldog players are quite confident they can line up and beat Vandy 100 times out of 100.  Since 1996, The Bulldogs have played Tennessee the week before they played Vanderbilt.  Five times prior to this year, the Vols won that game.  Georgia has taken it out on Vandy every time by an average score of 28-8.  That's about what I think will happen tomorrow, unless the defense can control the area I mentioned, reducing the contribution of Inman, Adams, and Southerland, and the Commodore passing game can get 200 yards. 


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