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Random thoughts from UGA-Vandy

9/23/2012

ATHENS, Ga. -- Emptying the notebook with some late-night thoughts and observations from Georgia’s 48-3 win against Vanderbilt on Saturday night.

* It’s amazing to see the strides Aaron Murray has made as Georgia’s quarterback. Rarely does he force a throw. He has such a great grasp of the offense, which Mark Richt said is a product of a relentless work ethic.

“All of our guys work hard in preparing, but Murray, he does take it to another level in how he prepares for the game and because of that we have a high cover level to let him check out of any play that doesn’t look good,” Richt said. “He checks from a run to a run or a run to a pass at times, he’ll change the protection at the line of scrimmage, he’ll change a pass play from time to time. We rarely run bad plays because he studies so well and he has certain keys that he can kind of anticipate what’s happening and just get us out of bad situations.”

Against Vandy, he completed passes to nine receivers, led by seniors Marlon Brown (5 catches, 114 yards, TD) and Tavarres King (4-58, TD). Just a second straight masterful performance.

* I watched Vandy coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham shake hands after the game. It’s not like they stood around exchanging pleasantries, but I saw Franklin say “Good job,” and they went their separate ways.

In the locker room, I asked Grantham if that provided some closure to the storyline about their postgame argument last year, but he didn’t see it that way.

“It’s been over with for me ever since last year, but you guys like to bring it up,” he said with a laugh. “It’s your job. Y’all have got a job, we’ve got a job, so we’ll all move on now."

* What does it say about the way Todd Gurley has performed this season that he rushed for 130 yards on 16 carries and his season yards-per-carry average actually dropped? He came into the Vandy game averaging 9.9 yards per carry. Now he’s all the way down to 9.2. But with 44 carries for 406 yards and six touchdowns, he has exceeded Isaiah Crowell’s rushing touchdown total from last season (5) and is about halfway to Crowell’s season rushing yardage from last season (850 yards) in just four games. Crowell, you’ll recall, won SEC Freshman of the Year last season.

* Keith Marshall ain’t too shabby, either. He’s averaging 6.3 yards per carry and already has 264 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries. We all talked about how he was a home-run hitter when Georgia signed him, but he hadn’t hit a home run until he broke a 52-yard touchdown run against Vandy, which I think was a relief for Marshall.

“It feels good because I’ve been close a lot of times, getting tripped up at the last second,” Marshall said. “It felt good to finally break one.”

* At least for this week, walk-on Parker Welch was obviously ahead of redshirt freshman Christian LeMay in Georgia’s quarterback pecking order behind Murray. Welch came into the game first and was 1-for-2 passing for 15 yards before giving way to LeMay in the fourth quarter.

“We thought Parker deserved to go in first, so that’s what we did,” Richt said.

* I think we all realize he doesn’t bring the same physical tools to the table that Damian Swann, Malcolm Mitchell or Branden Smith might, but Rhett McGowan has done a nice job returning/catching punts in the last two games. He had a nice 19-yard return against Vandy and also had a fair catch in traffic. I doubt we see him become the starter, but I think he has proved he can be a reliable option when they need somebody to get out there and catch the ball -- a la Logan Gray, maybe?

* I think the key to this game was the defense starting fast. The offense has clearly been the more consistent unit in the early going, but the defense forced punts on Vandy’s first five drives and notched another four three-and-outs. The Bulldogs have been looking for fast starts all season -- and you could say they got one against Missouri, as well -- but the defense looked pretty uninspired early against Buffalo and Florida Atlantic. Not so tonight.

“Of course it was the No. 1 thing,” nose guard John Jenkins said. “The last few games we’ve played coming into the season, our starts haven’t been what we wanted them to be. Every week we were, ‘Man, we’ve got to start fast. We’ve got to start fast.’ I guess this was it.”

* The crowd deserves some credit tonight. Vandy had four penalties -- three false starts -- on its first two possessions and that set the tone for the night. The Commodores punted twice and the Bulldogs scored two touchdowns and the rout was on.

* Jarvis Jones already has 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss this season. That gives him 18 sacks and 27 tackles for loss in 17 games as a Bulldog. The scary part after his seven-tackle, one-sack, three-TFL performance against Vandy? He told me he felt sluggish after sitting out last week with a groin injury. He said he physically felt fine but like he wasn’t flying around as fast as he usually does. I doubt Jordan Rodgers would have agreed after the fourth-down sack in which Jones plastered him in the third quarter Saturday.

* Georgia does have a couple of injuries we’ll have to check up on this week. Defensive end Abry Jones injured his ankle in the third quarter and did not return. Richt said, “We don’t think it’s a super serious situation by any means.” Safety Shawn Williams also played through a leg injury. He hasn’t done interviews in about a month, so we might not get an update there until checking the official injury report after Monday’s practice.