- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
ATHENS, Ga. -- Another week, another blowout win for Georgia in Saturday’s 48-3 victory against Vanderbilt.
Let’s review some of what I learned from watching a recording of ESPN2’s broadcast in this week’s “Upon Further Review.”
• I don’t want to go too far overboard in praising Georgia’s offensive line. Interviewing Will Friend will condition you in that way, I guess. But they truly have played great in the last two games. I don’t know how many times I’ve written down Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee’s names for pulling and knocking a potential tackler out of the screen while rewatching the last two games, but it has been a frequent occurrence. Great job on their parts.
• If there is a negative comment to be made, it’s that there seems to be a substantial drop-off between the first-team line and the backups. On the fourth-quarter series once Parker Welch and Christian LeMay had replaced Aaron Murray at quarterback, the reserve line was not exactly getting a great push.
• Yes, I saw the hug between Bacarri Rambo and Mark Richt at the end of the game where Richt appeared to say, “You’re back,” to Rambo followed by Rambo wearing a big smile. Richt thus far refuses to publicly confirm that Rambo and Alec Ogletree will return from suspension and play in the Tennessee game, but I don’t really know why.
• It would not have made much of a difference in the outcome -- let’s be honest, this was domination from start to finish -- but the officials did not do Vanderbilt any favors. The most obvious bad call was the roughing-the-punter call against Caleb Azubike where he A) was blocked toward punter Collin Barber by Georgia’s David Andrews and B) didn’t actually run into the punter.
Early in the fourth quarter, they ruled Vandy WR Jordan Matthews was out of bounds on a 30-yard catch at Georgia’s 17 (where UGA cornerback Malcolm Mitchell never got his head turned around to defend the pass), but he got a foot down inbounds. The Commodores wound up punting instead.
Conversely, Vandy got away with tackling Mitchell after he waved for a fair catch on a first-quarter punt return. That should have been a 15-yard penalty, so I suppose it all evened out on special-teams missed calls in the first quarter.
Later, the officials hit Vandy's Wesley Tate with an unnecessary roughness penalty after Christian Robinson and Shawn Williams drove him out of bounds at the Georgia 14 (Robinson did a great job of snuffing out that play, but Williams clearly goaded Tate into the reaction while he was laying on top of him out of bounds). The penalty made it fourth-and-23 at the Georgia 29 and Carey Spear missed a 46-yard field goal that would have been from a much more manageable 31 yards if not for the penalty.
• Man, both of Todd Gurley’s touchdown runs were physical displays. He ran between Vince Taylor and Jared Morse and straight over Javon Marshall on his 4-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but his highlight run of the night was his 29-yard score at the end of the third quarter.
He lined up behind Murray in the pistol formation and broke four tackles on the way to the end zone. He followed a pulling Burnette into the hole and Burnette cleared out Marshall to free him, then Gurley broke a tackle attempt by Chase Garnham at the 25, one by Steven Clarke at the 21, one by Eric Samuels at the 18 and then threw Marshall to the ground with a stiffarm at the 13. Beautiful run.
As ESPN analyst Brock Huard said after Gurley’s first TD run, “May I remind you that’s a true freshman?”
• On Georgia’s other long TD run of the night, Keith Marshall’s 52-yard burst in the first quarter, we should point out another well-blocked setup. He hit a hole cleared by Lee and Andrews and Burnette was upfield walling off Archibald Barnes. All Marshall had to do was dodge a tackle attempt by the safety and it was off to the races. Receiver Michael Bennett occupied Andre Hal just enough downfield to keep him away from Marshall and that was enough for the freshman to make it into the end zone.
• Speaking of the pistol, Georgia used it successfully a couple more times after Gurley broke a long TD run last week in its debut in the Bulldogs’ offensive scheme. Not only did Gurley score the 29-yard TD run from the pistol against Vandy, but they used it to make a run fake and then complete a pass to Marlon Brown, whose man had blitzed and who had slipped across the middle behind the linebackers who filtered toward the line after Murray faked a handoff to Marshall. Brown went 58 yards to the Vandy 3, setting up Marshall’s TD run that made it 41-3. Looks like that formation will be useful both in the run game and with the play-action pass.
• A key sequence late in the second quarter: Vandy has first-and-10 at Georgia’s 14 with 1:03 left in the half. Completion to Chris Boyd for 5 yards, incomplete pass into the end zone on good coverage by Williams, screen pass to Zac Stacy for minus-3 with Williams blowing up the play and other defenders right on his heels. Making Vandy kick a field goal there instead of reaching the end zone was an important stand as 27-3 at halftime just feels much better than 27-7. Georgia led Vandy 23-7 last season and very nearly blew it.
• Connor Norman made three strong tackles while covering kicks on special teams. Kid caught a lot of guff when he was starting at safety. He deserves some props for making plays in the kicking game.
• James Franklin remarked after the game that Rodgers actually played pretty well, which seems like a bizarre thing to say in a 48-3 game. But you know what? He was right. He threw the ball well considering how he had offensive linemen jumping offsides so frequently and Jarvis Jones and company bearing down on him throughout the game. Rodgers completed better than 50 percent of his passes and didn’t throw an interception.
He did fumble through the end zone on the Commodores’ best chance for a touchdown, but that play was all of his making, anyway. Vandy had a tough time along both lines of scrimmage, which I think was the biggest difference in the outcome. The Commodores actually drove into Georgia territory six different times. They kept shooting themselves in the foot once they got there, but the game was not as lopsided as the score appears.
• Franklin also said that the reason Jones went unblocked on the fourth-down sack of Rodgers when Vandy had reached Georgia’s 38 in the third quarter was that the center snapped the ball on the wrong count. Perhaps that’s true, but right tackle Andrew Bridges looked like he just let Jones go to me. He picked up Jordan Jenkins inside of Jones right off the bat and hardly even looked Jarvis’ way. Bad time for another communication breakdown.
• One of those moments you miss in the press box was when Georgia had to call a timeout when Ramik Wilson was late getting on the field just before the play where Rodgers fumbled through the end zone. Cornelius Washington looked like he wanted to kill Wilson when they called timeout. I guess you’d call that a senior making sure that an underclassman knows it’s important to be paying attention. I’m not sure I’d want to be on Washington’s bad side.