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No matter how good or bad a team is offensively, if a defense pitches a shutout, it's considered a perfect game. That's what Georgia was able to do against Vanderbilt on Saturday and it looks like the players are getting more comfortable in the 3-4 scheme. Not only Georgia was able pitch the shutout, they were able to limit the Vandy offense to 140 total yards of offense which is impressive. They also won the turnover battle, forcing a Vanderbilt fumble when the game was already in hand in the fourth quarter.
Linebacker Akeem Dent led the way for the Bulldogs with eight tackles while Bacarri Rambo and Justin Houston each notched five tackles. Houston also got a sack which he now has 6.5 sacks for the season and that puts him first in the SEC. Rambo seems to be improving after having a very rough start in the beginning of the year. Rambo along with Shawn Williams have been playing better and are part of the reason the defense seems to be taking the next step.
The unit still has work to do because they will face more teams that know how to make plays on the ground and in the air. But this was a step in the right direction for a unit that has been criticized all year long. Can they keep it up and play at a high level against Auburn, Kentucky, Florida and Georgia Tech? It won't be easy, but if they can continue to play with intensity and play smart, they have a shot of becoming a defense fans can be proud of.
Washaun Ealey wanted to gain back the trust of his team by putting on a show against Vanderbilt. He was able to do that with a 123-yard, one touchdown performance to help the Bulldogs earn their third win of the season and it also marked the first time Georgia has won back-to-back games since November of last year.
But it wasn't only Ealey who shined in the blowout win. Aaron Murray continues to show why he is becoming a star, completing 15-of-24 passes with 287 yards and two touchdowns. Murray also added 36 rushing yards on six carries. His go-to guy in the air attack was not A.J. Green, but Kris Durham became Murray's main target with four receptions for 112 yards and one touchdown. But no worries for Green because he scored the other touchdown pass from Murray.
Everyone who was watching saw what the Bulldogs wanted to do all year when it comes to offense. They were able to run the ball effectively with Ealey and Carlton Thomas, who ended the day with 40 yards on four carries and two touchdowns, and work the passing game via play action. Everyone on the offensive side of the ball executed and that's why the Bulldogs were able to put 40 points on the board. They should have another crack at scoring a lot of points when they face Kentucky next Saturday.
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.
Here’s what kind of day it was for the Commodores: Georgia punted with less than two minutes to go, and Vandy muffed the catch. Georgia recovered and ran out the clock, clinching a 43-0 win that represents their first shutout against an FBS team since the first month of the 2006 season and their biggest blowout against an SEC opponent since crushing Kentucky 62-17 in 2004.
Oh, and Uga VIII is officially 1-0 as the Georgia mascot. We can debate the significance of that later, but it’s an awfully good start for the new top Dawg.
Georgia’s last drive — in which Blair Walsh inexplicably missed a 31-yard field goal that would’ve pushed the lead to 46-0 — was led by backup QB Hutson Mason; now Vandy, sensing that the fix is in, has put in their backup QB as well. Looks like Jared Funk will be leading the ‘Dores for the rest of the game (but that might not be a great strategy, either — Georgia DB Vance Cuff came within an eyelash of picking off Funk’s first two passes).
Can you catch a ball with a guy’s helmet planted right in your sternum? No, but Georgia defensive back Sanders Commings can, and his leaping interception of a poorly thrown Larry Smith pass set Georgia up for their fifth TD of the day, a one-yard Washaun Ealey dive that has put the Dawgs up by 43. There’s a very real chance that the Dawgs might put up a bigger margin of victory today than they did against UL-Lafayette in Week 1.
Running back Carlton Thomas — CARLTON THOMAS! — just rumbled into the end zone from 9 yards out to score his second — SECOND! — touchdown of the game. It’s Georgia 36, Vandy bupkus, making this the biggest blowout Vanderbilt has suffered all season long by a pretty wide margin.
Georgia opened up the second half exactly the way the Homecoming crowd hoped they would — Kris Durham made a ridiculous jump out of a three-man scrum of defenders to pick up 22 yards and a first down, and three plays later, A.J. Green took an Aaron Murray pass 48 yards to the house.
That Homecoming crowd, by the way, IS a sellout — Georgia came in barely under the wire to sell the last of the tickets. So Mark Richt continues a 61-game streak of having sold out every Georgia home game under his tenure.
The lack of drama in the game has not gone unnoticed by Uga VIII. (Courtesy Bubbaprog at 30fps)
We're at intermission of Georgia's 2010 Homecoming game, and right now Uga VIII has as many points as the Vanderbilt Commodores do. Georgia pushed the score to 22-0 on a 25-yard Blair Walsh field goal with 18 seconds left to go in the half.
A few untimely dropped passes have dinged Aaron Murray's completion percentage, but other than that he's been his usual poised, efficient self -- 9-of-17 for 137 yards, a short TD to Kris Durham, and no picks. But the real story has been the running game, in which Washaun Ealey (10 rushes, 89 yards) and Carlton Thomas (3 for 31 and a score) have been men on a mission for redemption.
The defense, meanwhile, has maintained its high level of play from the Tennessee game -- Larry Smith (3-of-8, 58 yards) has broken loose for a couple nice passing plays, but neither he nor last year's SEC Freshman of the Year, running back Warren Norman, have accomplished anything on the ground. Even if you take out the errant snap over Smith's head that accounted for Georgia's first-quarter safety, the previously potent Vandy running game has been limited to only 45 yards on 13 carries.
Other stats: Georgia has 12 first downs to Vandy's five; lead big in total yardage, 299-76; and have a time-of-possession advantage of six and a half minutes. After the Redcoat Band performs and the Homecoming queen is crowned, the Dawgs will get the ball first in the second half.
A long Drew Butler punt and a Vandy penalty put the Commodores back at their own 7 to start their first drive of the second quarter, and following a three-and-out, Richard Kent shanked a punt to set the Bulldogs up at the VU37. A few plays later, Aaron Murray lobbed a four-yard pass to Kris Durham, who stretched out to score Georgia’s second TD of the day.
Uga VIII, meanwhile, is already asleep atop a bag of ice in his doghouse, showing that he has learned much from his predecessor.
How did Vandy answer Georgia’s swift touchdown drive late in the first quarter? Not well: They snapped the ball over Larry Smith’s head, and the ball was bounced around between Smith and a couple Georgia players before finally dribbling out the back of the end zone for a safety. Brandon Boykin returned the ensuing free kick to the 25 and Georgia got a first-down run from Aaron Murray before time expired in the first period.
Thanks to Georgia burning all of their time-outs (and Vandy taking one of theirs), two scoring plays being reviewed (including a scoop-‘n’-score by Georgia’s Christian Robinson that was overturned) and a series of injuries and penalties, the first quarter has taken nearly an hour. Just more time for Uga VIII to soak in the atmosphere and get acclimated, I guess.
So if you were one of those Georgia fans who (like myself) was worried about how our running game would fare without Caleb King in the lineup, looks like you can rest easy for now: Georgia’s second scoring of the drive took only two plays, the first a 58-yard scamper by Washaun Ealey (who extricated himself from at least three tackle attempts in the backfield), the second a 15-yard run by Carlton King into the end zone. Georgia now leads 10-zip with just a few seconds left in the first quarter.
Georgia bent but didn’t break on Vanderbilt’s opening drive, allowing them into UGA territory but forcing a punt on 4th-and-short — their second straight week of not allowing an opponent to score on the opening drive after having allowed TDs on opening drives for four straight weeks. From there, the Dawgs got a 55-yard pass from Aaron Murray to Kris Durham that set up Georgia’s first score of the game, a 32-yard Blair Walsh field goal.
The new mascot. University of Georgia Sports Communications.
Uga VIII's swearing in will take place right before kickoff of today's homecoming game against Vandy. The Collar Of Dawgness will be removed from interim mascot Russ and placed on the new guy, and both will enjoy the game together in Uga's new freezing throne room. Since the game is against Vanderbilt, you'll hear Georgia fans talk about VIII's undefeated record for the next six days at least.
The only way to see it live will be to attend, from what the internet understands, though surely video will escape the hedges at some point.
The 13-month-old, white English bulldog weighs 55 pounds and is the grandson of Uga VI. Here's an AJC scouting report of the new mascot.
For any Bulldogs fans wondering if Vanderbilt middle linebacker Chris Marve was going to play or not, he will be ready to go on Saturday 10 days after going through arthroscopic knee surgery. Marve is one of the best linebackers in the conference and is second the SEC in tackles. He practiced Wednesday and Thursday.
Another Vanderbilt player trying to make his return when the Commodores take on Georgia will be defensive tackle Adam Smotherman who was injured on the last day of spring practice. He went through a full week of practice for the first time this season so he should see some playing time.
Another quick note on Vandy has to do with a former Georgia high school standout Jonathan Krause. The former South Gwinnett star has eight receptions for 112 yards which places him third on the team and on pace to have the best year for a true freshmen wide receiver at Vandy since Earl Bennett.
They may have a losing record, but the talent is there so the Bulldogs have to be ready for a fight because Vanderbilt is going to come ready and they are going to make some plays.
This is not surprising, but the Nashville newspaper, the City Paper predicts their local college team will get hammered by the Bulldogs 30-13.
However, one thing the paper does mention is Vanderbilt still has a shot of winning the SEC East title if they were to win Saturday because they would have a 2-1 record in conference play.
But they don't believe Vandy will make enough plays to win the game and A.J. Green will be the X-factor for Georgia.
Have they forgotten about 2006, when Vandy came into Athens and won via late-game field goal?
Due to the suspension of running back Caleb King, Washaun Ealey will get the start on Saturday when the Bulldogs take on Vanderbilt.
Ealey has not seen much action due to fumbles and Seth Emerson reports true freshmen Ken Malcome could see some playing time because Carlton Thomas will not likely play due to an injury he suffered at Colorado.
Emerson also reports Cornelius Washington could play on Saturday after sitting out last week due to a concussion.
Also, freshman Zander Ogletree might see some action on offense as he has been working with fullbacks. His brother Alec has been in the rotation with the other safeties during practice.
Should be interesting how the lineup looks when Saturday morning arrives.
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.
(Sports Network) – FACTS & STATS: Site: Sanford Stadium (92,746) — Athens, Georgia. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: Vanderbilt 1-2, Georgia 2-1. Away Record: Vanderbilt 1-1, Georgia 0-3. Neutral Record: Vanderbilt 0-0, Georgia 0-0. Conference Record: Vanderbilt 1-1, Georgia 1-3. Series Record: Georgia leads, 50-18-2.
Vanderbilt has won two of its last three games to improve to 2-3 overall. The Commodores took a break from SEC play last weekend to best Eastern Michigan by a 52-6 final. Coach Robbie Caldwell is in his first season as the leader of the Vandy program and will certainly endear himself to the fans with a win over Georgia.
Speaking of the Bulldogs, they are led by Mark Richt, who is the longest tenured coach at his current school in the SEC. Richt’s squad entered last weekend’s clash with Tennessee at an unthinkable 1-4 overall, including 0-3 in SEC play. Not only did Georgia knock off Tennessee, the 41-14 final was proof of the talent the Bulldogs possess.
Georgia owns a 50-18-2 series advantage over Vanderbilt, including three straight wins over the Commodores.
Vanderbilt is averaging 25.0 ppg and 350.2 total ypg, and the offense is rather mediocre by most accounts. The Commodores have done a solid job of moving the ball on the ground, posting 171.6 ypg at a clip of 4.7 yards per carry. Warren Norman and Zac Stacy have combined for 568 yards and seven scores. As for the passing game, Larry Smith has connected on 56.3 percent of his throws for 793 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Opponents are posting 22.0 ppg and 345.2 total ypg against Vanderbilt, which has been solid against both the run and the pass. Linebacker Chris Marve is one of the top performers for the defense, but it is unclear if he will be bale to play this weekend because of a knee injury. With eight sacks and nine takeaways, there have been some impact plays made by Vanderbilt, but certainly not enough to consider this defense elite. Keep an eye on Casey Hayward as he is responsible for four of the club’s five interceptions.
Vanderbilt produced its most points in a game since 1999 with the 52-point explosion against Eastern Michigan last week. Smith played extremely well in that game, completing 16-of-27 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns against zero interceptions. John Cole led the receivers with four catches for 103 yards and a score, while Stacy paced the ground attack with 90 yards and a touchdown. Norman reached the end zone twice for the Commodores, who finished with 558 total yards.
It is hard to imagine the Vanderbilt defense playing any better than it did in the victory over Eastern Michigan. The Commodores allowed a mere 209 total yards on 62 plays in that clash, holding the Eagles to 2.8 yards per rushing attempt and 9.5 yards per pass completion. Key for Vandy was that it managed to limit EMU to 3-of-15 success on third down conversion attempts.
Georgia rolled up 402 total yards against Tennessee last week, and this is certainly a much more dangerous offense now that wideout A.J. Green is back from suspension. One of the nation’s finest pass-catchers, Green made six catches for 96 yards and a touchdown while drawing constant double teams by Vol defenders. Aaron Murray, the quarterback of the Bulldogs, completed 17- of-25 passes for 266 yards with two scores and no picks. Georgia kept possession of the ball for nearly 35 minutes and scored on all six of its trips to the red zone.
The Bulldogs played tremendous defense against Tennessee, limiting the Vols to 269 total yards, including just nine net rushing yards on 26 attempts. That performance against the run was without question the biggest factor in the blowout. Georgia came up with three takeaways, including a pair of fumble recoveries, and allowed Tennessee to reach the red zone just twice all afternoon.
Through six games, Georgia is generating 27.5 ppg and 370.0 total ypg, and Green has played in the last two contests. He has already recorded 13 catches for 215 yards and three scores, while Murray has passed for 1,366 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions. As for the ground attack, Washaun Ealey paces a balanced attack.
Opponents are scoring 20.3 ppg against the Bulldogs, who are yielding just 315.2 total ypg. Clearly, Georgia has played strong defense, as those numbers are not indicative of a 2-4 team. The Dawgs have posted 14 sacks, a solid total, and there have been nine takeaways registered. Clearly, there is room for improvement on third down, as foes are making good on 43 percent of their conversion attempts.
Go with Georgia in this game, as it will take care of business at home. Green will be a top-10 NFL Draft selection and should once again show his talents this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia 27, Vanderbilt 14
October 16, 12:21 p.m. (et)
As always, the team met with media members Tuesday afternoon to talk about the upcoming game against Vanderbilt and the win against Tennessee. Here are a few quotes from Mark Richt, Aaron Murray and Abry Jones:
Mark Richt on off the field distractions:
"It's hard to have great continuity week-by-week if a young man has done something to keep himself from being on the field. Again, it's our job also to deal with those things, but also not take away from the preparation and not take away from the focus of the team. "
Richt on Vandy:
"They play fast and they play physical and they really play great fundamental football on both sides of the ball. You could tell they've created a lot of really good habits in the way they play."
Richt on if true freshemn Ken Malcome will play in the game:
"We've been getting Ken ready for probably the last month or so. I don't know if we had him with the varsity the very first week. We might have had him on the scout team. We were watching him in drill work and we feel like he has great potential."
Aaron Murray on the win against Tennessee:
"We hadn't been playing a complete game and this past weekend we did. The offense was definitely there and making plays. The first five game we did some good things and other times weren't making plays. This past weekend was nice."
Murray on the impact of A.J. Green:
"Teams will send safeties over the top or put a corner on him and things like that, which frees everyone else up. Maybe there's one less defender on another guy or one less in the box so it's nice to open things up for everyone else."
Abry Jones on the night after defeating Tennessee:
"Saturday night was just a relaxed feeling. There was no thinking back to the game about what could have gone better, about what I could have done better and what could have the team done better. It was just relaxed in just saying we are back on track, we won one. I was just sitting back relaxing and enjoying the win."
Richt was also asked about the Caleb King situation but brushed off the questions right away. It's obvious he is irritated with all the arrest that have gone on this year.
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.)
There may be no better time to buy tickets to a Georgia football game than right now.
Tim Tucker reports 1,200 tickets will be made available for the Dawgs' October 16 home game against Vandy. You can buy tickets at georgiadogs.com tomorrow at 9 a.m. for $50, which is a little cheaper than any tickets turned up by Fansnap.
The 'Dores couldn't sell their whole guest allotment, and had to return a share, which Georgia is re-selling.
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