Undefeated Uga's Dawgs Stomp 'Dores, 43-0

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Vanderbilt Commodores Vs. Georgia Bulldogs Final Score: 43-0, And Uga VIII Is 1-0

Athens, GA (Sports Network) – Aaron Murray threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Georgia Bulldogs to a 43-0 rout of the Vanderbilt Commodores at Sanford Stadium.

Murray was 15-of-24 through the air for the Bulldogs (3-4, 2-3 SEC) without an interception. Washaun Ealey ran for 123 yards on 17 carries and scored one touchdown. Carlton Thomas scored two rushing touchdowns, while Kris Durham caught four balls for 112 yards and a score.

Zac Stacy picked up just 39 rushing yards on nine carries for Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-2) which was limited to just 140 yards in total offense. Larry Smith was just 5-of-14 through the air for 70 yards, to go along with one interception.

Georgia took the early lead on Blair Walsh’s 32-yard field goal with 7:41 left in the opening period.

Thomas scored on a 15-yard scamper with 28 seconds left in the period to give the Bulldogs a 10-0 advantage.

A Vanderbilt fumble resulted in a safety with 14 seconds left in the quarter, allowing Georgia to extend its lead.

Murray’s four yard pass to Durham gave Georgia a 19-0 lead with 8:43 left in the first half.

Walsh added a 25-yard field goal 18 seconds before intermission to give the Bulldogs a 22-0 halftime edge.

Georgia kept rolling at the start of the second half. Murray hit A.J. Green with a 48-yard touchdown pass with 12:14 left in the third period and Thomas followed up with a nine-yard touchdown run at the 6:25 mark.

Ealey’s one-yard run gave Georgia a 43-0 lead and completed the scoring with 3:22 still to play in the third quarter.

Georgia piled up 547 yards in total offense over the course of the afternoon and averaged 7.5 yards per offensive snap. Vanderbilt averaged just 3.0 yards per play and ran just 47 offensive plays.

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Georgia-Vanderbilt Preview: When The Commodores Have The Ball

It's nice to be looking forward to football games again, but don't let your warm, sunny feelings lull you into thinking Vanderbilt's going to be an easy mark. Their offense has improved considerably over a dismal showing in 2009, and many of their improvements could hit right at the Dawgs' biggest weaknesses.

VANDERBILT'S OFFENSE, BY THE NUMBERS
Passing: Averaging 178.6 yards per game, 91st in FBS. QB Larry Smith's only outings of 200+ yards came against Northwestern and Eastern Michigan.
Rushing: Rolling up 171.6 yards per game on the ground (46th nationally). Leading rusher Warren Norman has amassed 327 yards at a rate of 6.2 per carry.

REASONS TO BE EXCITED
Was it really only five years ago that Jay Cutler threw his last pass for the Commodores? Seems like it's been a lot longer, though that probably has something do with Vandy's passing game having stunk on ice ever since. The 'Dores ranked 112th in the nation in passing the last two seasons, about as low as you can get if you're not running the triple option. They've improved their stats some this year, but Larry Smith still trails all regular SEC starters except LSU's Jordan Jefferson in passing efficiency; he's averaging 159 yards per game and just over six and a half per attempt. He's making fewer mistakes than he did last year, but he's clearly not intended to be the focal point of this offense.

That might stem partly from the fact that his offensive line hasn't done a great job of protecting him. Only one starter returns from last year's line, and there's only one senior, center Joey Bailey; Smith's blind-side protection is coming from Wesley Johnson, a redshirt freshman moved over from guard. With that in mind, perhaps it's not surprising that Vandy QBs have been taken down 14 times this season, but that won't come as much comfort to Commodore fans with Georgia linebacker Justin Houston lurking on the sidelines, anxious to pad his SEC-leading sack numbers.

It all adds up to a fairly simple game plan for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Rely on the secondary, despite its recent struggles, to cover Vandy's receivers -- none of which are huge, and the biggest of which is a redshirt freshman -- man-to-man, and blitz like crazy. Throw as many guys at the Vandy offensive front as it takes to rattle Smith early and disrupt the passing game. That's been a dicey strategy as the Dawgs have struggled to adapt to their new assignments under Grantham's 3-4, but the defensive front as a whole took a step forward last week by sacking Matt Simms four times and neutralizing running back Tauren Poole. If they can build on that performance this weekend, they'll be in good shape.

Oh, and Georgia will be passing the torch -- or the spiked collar -- from interim mascot Russ to the official heir apparent of the Georgia Bulldog lineage, Uga VIII, before the game on Saturday. If that's not the kind of moment that will get a team fired up, what is?

REASONS TO WORRY
New Uga or no, the Dawg defense had better not go into the Vanderbilt game exhibiting any complacency, for the Commodore running game has been almost as good as the passing game has been bad, and will make them pay for it. Last season's SEC Freshman of the Year, running back Warren Norman, may only have 327 net rushing yards this season, but he's been racking them up at the rate of 6.2 per carry; his understudy, fellow sophomore Zac Stacy, has 241 yards and an even higher average. Combine that with Larry Smith's mobility and you've got exactly the kind of combination that caused the Georgia front seven to implode in back-to-back weeks against Mississippi State and Colorado. Maybe the Tennessee game was a sign that they've finally put it all together, but if not, it could be a long night full of agonizing third-down conversions as the Dawgs try desperately to account for all the weapons in Vandy's backfield.

As if that weren't enough, Norman is also a major threat on kickoff returns -- his three special-teams TDs last season were a big part of what earned him Freshman of the Year honors, and he's averaging 30 yards per return this year. No touchdowns yet, but his season best is a 72-yarder that set the 'Dores up for a short touchdown drive against Connecticut a couple weeks ago. Fortunately, Georgia's kickoff coverage has soared from a dismal 117th in the nation last year to 15th in 2010, but they'll need to stay on their toes.

The X-factor in this matchup could be Brandon Barden, the second-leading tight end in the Southeastern Conference with 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He's a big, sure-handed target who gives Smith just the kind of weapon he needs to execute Vandy's conservative passing game. Even if the Dawgs manage to clamp down on Norman, they can't afford to let Barden get behind them and keep moving the chains.

MATCHUP TO WATCH
Georgia LB Christian Robinson vs. Vanderbilt RB Warren Norman. Particularly given Vandy's struggles in pass protection, the Dawg defense should be able to just send Justin Houston out onto the field and let him hunt. It's managing what happens after Larry Smith hands off that may be the bigger challenge, and Robinson (along with the rest of the linebacking corps) will have to account for his whereabouts and make sure they continue the physical tackling that they displayed against Tennessee in last week's big win. Norman only managed 52 net yards against the Dawgs in last year's meeting in Nashville; if Georgia holds him to a similar number this weekend, they'll be headed for a win.

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Georgia-Vanderbilt Preview: When The Dawgs Have The Ball

Having gotten off the schneid last week with a dominating win over Tennessee, Georgia now attempts to stay off said schneid by welcoming the Vanderbilt Commodores to town. Nobody's going to confuse the 'Dores with a juggernaut, but neither should they be taking this weekend's game lightly -- Georgia has averaged just 25 points per game over their last four meetings with this supposed SEC doormat, and they'll likely have to work even harder with RB Caleb King on the sidelines

VANDERBILT'S DEFENSE, BY THE NUMBERS
Against the pass: 15th nationally with 161.4 yards allowed per game, though of the passing offenses they've faced this year, only Northwestern's (20th) ranks in the top eighty in Division I-A. (The 'Dores are only 62nd in passing efficiency allowed.)
Against the run: 93rd in the nation with 183.8 yards allowed per game. They've allowed three hundred-yard rushers so far this season.

REASONS TO BE EXCITED
As you can see by the Vandy defense's rushing stats, whoever steps in to fill the shoes of the suspended Caleb King will be given every opportunity to succeed. Most likely, that'll be Washaun Ealey, though fullback Fred Munzenmaier has also been getting reps at RB this week. Status unconfirmed: Carlton Thomas, who missed the Tennessee game with a hamstring injury, and who's been dressing out but not participating in drills this week; and freshman Ken Malcome, currently being redshirted. There have been rumors of Malcome potentially losing that status depending on how things go Saturday, but given how loath Richt has been to burn redshirts in the past, I'd be surprised if that happened.

And it may not need to, if Aaron Murray can build on the performance that earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors following the blowout win over UT. Murray has looked great all season long, but never more so than when he had A.J. Green to throw to for an entire game against the Vols. Murray looked poised and confident on the run, too, and should continue to do so against a Vandy defensive front that's only notched eight sacks in their first five games of the season. With a full complement of receivers and a game plan that's blessedly involving the tight ends and fullbacks more, Murray should have another fine performance despite the stout numbers the Vanderbilt secondary has put up so far.

Georgia also seems to have shaken off a special-teams performance that was slightly less impressive than expected over their first few games; Blair Walsh was 2-for-2 on field goals against Tennessee and put four of his eight kickoffs in the end zone (three for touchbacks), while Brandon Boykin had another solid day returning KOs. He'll get some opportunities against a Vandy kickoff unit that only has three touchbacks in 24 kicks this season and is ranked 10th in the SEC with 22 yards allowed per return.

REASONS TO WORRY
Vanderbilt's run defense may be ranked next-to-last in the SEC right now, but can anyone on the Georgia sideline really afford to be too optimistic if the Bulldog running game comes down to Ealey and Malcome? The latter, however promising, is still a true freshman Richt was hoping to not even have to use this year, while Ealey has become more notable for his fumbles than anything positive he's done over the last few weeks. He fumbled inside the 5 against South Carolina and Mississippi State and coughed it up in prime scoring position against Tennessee, too, though that one at least went out of bounds (and the run was called back by an illegal block anyway). Beyond that, Ealey has only 84 yards on 23 carries over the last three games, so he'd better hope that A.J. Green's presence on the field keeps Vanderbilt from stacking the box.

And while Vanderbilt's pass-defense stats may have been constructed largely against sub-mediocre QBs, there's no denying that their secondary has done a decent job of getting to the ball. Cornerback Casey Hayward is second in the SEC with four picks so far this season, and he's almost certain to be planted on A.J. all afternoon, so Aaron Murray can't afford to get complacent after last week's performance. It'll also be incumbent on Mike Bobo to continue opening up Murray's options in the short passing game, and that means involving both the tight ends and the fullbacks. That'll be easier now that fullback Shaun Chapas has returned from his injury and is a regular part of the lineup again, but a 41-spot against Tennessee's injury-depleted defensive unit hardly means that all the Bulldogs' problems on offense have been solved.

And while kickoffs should be a strength of the Georgia special-teams unit this weekend, punt returns likely will continue to be an issue with Branden Smith still shaking off the concussion he suffered against Colorado. As exciting as it was to see A.J. Green fielding punts (and Logan Gray actually returning them!) last week, Georgia still only managed a total of 18 yards on three punt returns, and it won't get much better against a Vandy ST unit allowing only 3.7 yards per punt return this season.

MATCHUP TO WATCH
Georgia RB Washaun Ealey vs. Vanderbilt MLB Chris Marve. Doormat reputation or no, Vanderbilt's linebackers have still managed to menace Georgia offenses for years now, and though Mark Richt may have taken the highly logical step of swiping the 'Dores' LB coach, Warren Belin, as part of his defensive coaching shakeup at the beginning of the year, the danger remains. Marve was Vanderbilt's leading tackler last year and is the star of a front seven that, despite its struggles against the run, has still managed to notch 42 tackles for loss this season, good for sixth in FBS. So run like the wind, Washaun, and for God's sake hold on to the ball.

(Tomorrow we'll examine how Georgia's defense stacks up against a Vandy offensive attack that may be trickier than you think.)

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