Tough Day in Athens Ends Historic Stretch

Commodores lose to No. 1 Georgia ending stretch against top-10 opponents

by Chad Bishop

ATHENS, Ga. — Vanderbilt’s gauntlet is over. But it was very, very difficult.

The Commodores ended a historic stretch of three games against top-10 opponents Saturday with a 55-0 loss at No. 1 Georgia. The Commodores were never really in the contest; they fell behind 14-0 after the first quarter and 21-0 six minutes into the second quarter.

Head coach Clark Lea’s team played better defensively early in the second half, but things got out of hand late. Then they found offensive sledding tough against what many consider to be the nation’s best defense.

“I know that the team’s frustrated, the staff’s frustrated,” Lea said. “The challenge here now is accepting the result as an indicator of where we are: doesn’t have to be where we’re headed, moving beyond this quickly but also taking the learning from it and preparing to go on the road again next week to play against another SEC opponent.”

Vandy, now on a three-game losing streak, mustered just 150 yards of offense and only 45 yards on the ground. It went 5-for-13 on third down and was on the field for just 12:34.

That is not a recipe for a road victory against the top-ranked team in the nation.

“They negated our run game,” Lea said. “We’ve been able to stay on schedule by running the ball to set up third-and-manageables, and we weren’t able to do that today. They’re really good through the middle of their defense. They won at the point of attack. Their second and third levels got involved in the run game, and we weren’t able to get space that way.”

Vanderbilt found little success on either side of the ball in the first half.

The Commodores were quickly down 21-0 as Georgia scored on three of its first four offensive possessions. Then when Vandy finally got something going offensively, freshman Jayden McGowan lost a fumble at the 15, zapping any sort of momentum the Dores might have been building.

Georgia (7-0, 4-0 SEC) took the ball the other way and scored on a 10-play, 85-yard drive that made it 28-0 just before halftime.

Vandy (2-4, 0-3 SEC) had one last scoring opportunity before the break, but the usually reliable Joseph Bulovas pushed a 43-yard field goal wide.

Georgia out-gained Vanderbilt 295-105 in the first half, went five of seven on third down, held the ball for more than 20 minutes, averaged 7.4 yards per play and went four-for-four in the red zone. That all added up to a three-game skid for a Vanderbilt team that had started the season 3-1.

“We’re not looking at the three losses as a stretch,” Vandy cornerback Jaylen Mahoney said. “We’re just looking at it as opportunities to grow as a program. Just pushing the message to (the team): ‘Keep going, keep working hard in practice because practice is where we win.’ So just going hard at practice starting Monday. That’s the next step.”

The toughest part of Vanderbilt’s schedule is over. Vandy is on the road again next weekend to play at Missouri (2-4, 0-3 SEC) at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Missouri will be coming off a bye week, however, and looking to snap their own three-game losing streak. So even though the Commodores’ stretch against ranked opponents is over, they’ll need their best game next week in Columbia.

“It was a tough stretch. We wanted to play better. But we have a program that we’re building, so we have to reach for confidence every day. What we need to do now is, as a staff, get with our players and show them the things they did well and build on the things that are positive about our performance,” Lea said. “But also challenge them for more. So there’s a balance there. This is a resilient group. We have a resilient bunch of leaders. They’ll do a great job to bind together to move us forward. We’re going to let this one hurt for 24 hours, and we’re going to move past it. We have to.

“I’m excited for this back stretch of the season. I’m excited for what this team can accomplish. Obviously to do it we got to play better than we did today—and we will.”

  • Anfernee Orji has made at least nine tackles in six straight games.
  • Vandy’s last victory over a top-10 ranked team came Oct. 20, 2007.
  • The Commodores’ last win over a ranked opponent was Oct. 19, 2019
  • Vanderbilt opponents are now 5-for-16 on fourth down this season.
  • The Commodores are now 21-for-22 in the red zone this season after failing to score points in its only trip inside the 20 on Saturday.
  • Vanderbilt saw its takeaway streak of 15 straight games end Saturday.
  • Vandy now trails the all-time series against Georgia 20-60-2 and has dropped five straight in the series.
  • Attendance on Saturday was announced as 92,746.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.