NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Make no bones about it, visiting Georgia proved Saturday why it is considered one of the best teams in college football.
But Vanderbilt didn’t do itself any favors in a 62-0 loss at Vanderbilt Stadium – its worst loss to its SEC rival in program history.
“This is my ownership. It’s my accountability. It extends to our coaches – their accountability – and then it extends to the players,” Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea said. “And it’s the ownership of the players over our process to move forward and to be better.
“A credit to Georgia, but also we have to find a way to measure our process and stop playing according to what the opponent does. It’s about Vanderbilt.”
Before a large number of the 32,178 fans in attendance could settle into their seats, Georgia was out to a double-digit lead. Brock Bowers had scored on a 12-yard run. Then Bowers caught a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Only seven minutes had ticked off the clock before James Ziglor fumbled a kickoff return with Vandy down 14-0. It then took the Bulldogs 51 seconds to find the end zone again.
On the next Vanderbilt offensive play from scrimmage? A Ken Seals interception. That led to another Georgia touchdown pass.
With 6:42 left in the opening quarter, Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-1 SEC) had allowed 28 points, turned the ball over twice and mustered five yards of total offense.
“From the start, we’re interested in Vanderbilt. We’re interested in what Vanderbilt can do. How we show up, how we play,” Lea said. “So I think the disappointing thing for me is Georgia’s a good team and they deserve the right to be where they are in the rankings and they’re playing at a high level, but I’m interested in when we can find our highest level of performance.
“We came out flat, we turned the ball over, we made mistakes – especially in the special teams area. Look, no matter who you play against, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. For me this isn’t about them, it’s about us, it’s about how we perform, it’s about the things that we can do.”
Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) added one more touchdown before the first quarter came to a close. Vanderbilt could do little to formulate any sort of semblance of a comeback.
Despite only being outscored 3-0 in the second quarter, Vandy still could only total 16 yards of total offense in that frame. It committed two more penalties and went 0-for-3 on third down while also missing a field goal.
Even an interception by Ethan Barr and a fourth-down stop inside its own 5 couldn’t equate to a flip on momentum.
The Bulldogs added 24 more points in the second half by scoring on its first five possessions. Georgia finished with 524 yards of total offense and averaged nearly seven yards per play.
Seals and fellow quarterback Mike Wright found zero space in the passing game and the Vandy rushing attack was virtually shut down. Vanderbilt was 5 of 18 passing with two interceptions.
On the ground, the Commodores had only 53 yards.
“All respect to them. They played a good game. We always respect every opponent we play,” Vanderbilt offensive lineman Bradley Ashmore said. “But it defaults to what we did, right? Especially on the O-line, we take ownership of that up front. We just have to do a better job of fitting our gaps and fitting our bend and doing all our assignments.”
Vanderbilt now takes one last step out of conference play when it hosts Connecticut (0-4) at Vanderbilt Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The challenge for the Dores not only lies in figuring out a way to best the Huskies and get back into the win column, but also to quickly erase the memory of a defeat of the harshest variety.
“This is just a point in the progression line. It doesn’t shake us because we understand it doesn’t define us,” Lea said. “This is a delicate ecosystem. We’re in the infancy of our program. This is everything that we’ve talked about all the way up to this point. This is the long, hard way.
“You learn about yourself in a game like this. You also learn about yourself in the response to a game like this. We’re disappointed. We got a team that has a damaged pride right now. But how quickly can we turn the page and shift focus to our next opponent and win the response and be better? If we can learn to play up to our standard, if we can learn to play and represent Vanderbilt football, the personality, the style of play, there are better days ahead.”
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.