NASHVILLE, Tenn. ‚Äî Georgia barely escaped into its bye week with a victory on Saturday night.
Vanderbilt kept on the Bulldogs‚Äô heels right down to the game‚Äôs last play and then Commodores coach James Franklin went toe-to-toe with Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham afterwards.
The Commodores blocked a Drew Butler punt with 7 seconds left to give them the ball at the Georgia 20 and a shot at the end zone to win the game.
Grantham‚Äôs defense made the plays at the end as the Bulldogs held on to a 33-28 victory at Vanderbilt Stadium, but the talk after the game was as much about the post-game incident involving Grantham and Franklin.
‚ÄúI love my players and I‚Äôm going to support my players,‚Äù Grantham said.
A TV replay showed Grantham and Franklin exchanging angry words while being separated. Players started to get involved and Georgia coach Mark Richt held them back.
‚ÄúWe just had a tough, emotional game and some things were said that I didn‚Äôt think were appropriate,‚Äù Franklin said. ‚ÄúI went to find coach Richt and didn‚Äôt find him, so I found one of his assistant coaches and it didn‚Äôt go well. We‚Äôre not going to sit there and take it from anyone.‚Äù
The Bulldogs (5-2, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) will carry a five-game winning streak‚Äîits longest since 2007 ‚Äî to Jacksonville for it annual showdown with Florida on Oct. 29.
The Bulldogs remain in a first place tie atop the SEC Eastern Division with South Carolina, but Georgia will find plenty to work on from the game film of this one.
‚ÄúI just don‚Äôt know if we‚Äôre ready to continue on top of the Eastern Division the way we played tonight,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got to get better in a lot of areas.‚Äù
Georgia had 11 penalties for 89 yards.
After giving up two touchdowns in the past four games, the defense gave up three touchdowns to a team that entered the game having not scored a touchdown in its last nine quarters.
There were special teams breakdowns. Vanderbilt, scored off a fake punt that led to a touchdown pass from a running back, a 96-yard kickoff return touchdown from Andre Hal and then had the blocked punt.
Butler‚Äôs punt was blocked by Udom Umoh with 7 seconds to play. Umoh got to the ball from Butler‚Äôs right. Butler made a saving tackle after a 2-yard return.
‚ÄúOn that play, I‚Äôm just thankful that Butler had the presence of mind to get up and make a play because if he doesn‚Äôt make a play,‚Äù Richt said.
That gave Vanderbilt a first down at the Georgia 20-yard line.
After a 5-yard illegal substitution penalty, Bacarri Rambo broke up a pass intended for Chris Boyd in the right corner of the end zone with a second to play.
Jordan Rodgers, brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodger, hit Branden Barden on a pass, but he was tackled by Mike Gillard at Georgia‚Äôs 16 yard line.
‚ÄúWe didn‚Äôt play as good as we can and they know that,‚Äù Grantham said. ‚ÄúThe bottom line is we won the game and we won it in the fourth quarter, too, when we weren‚Äôt our best. That‚Äôs the mark of a team that‚Äôs improving and maturing and doing what they‚Äôve got to do.‚Äù
Richt said he didn‚Äôt know what happened after the game.
‚ÄúAll I know is I hate the fact that at the end of the game, we can‚Äôt just shake hands like gentlemen and walk off the field like men of integrity,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt really know what happened. I‚Äôve heard a couple of sides of the story. It‚Äôs hard to know which one is 100 percent the truth, but the bottom line is when the game is over, the game is over.‚Äù
Georgia began the game with its star tailback, Isaiah Crowell, sitting out the first quarter.
Richt called it ‚Äúa coach‚Äôs decision,‚Äù but later said it was related to off-field issues.
Crowell finished with 35 yards on 10 carries.
Up-and-down kicker, Blair Walsh, missed a pair of first-half field goals, but still tied his career high by booting four field goals from 53, 28, 36 and 44 yards.
Receiver Marlon Brown (four catches, 121 yards) came up big.
With top receiver Malcolm Mitchell out with a pulled hamstring, Brown scored on touchdown catches of 27 and 75 yards.
Brown, bothered by an ankle injury this season, entered the game with one career touchdown in 24 games.
‚ÄúI was trying to score,‚Äù said the Memphis native. ‚ÄúI wasn‚Äôt thinking about the ankle.‚Äù
Quarterback Aaron Murray completed 22 of 38 passes for 326 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. His completions and attempts were both career highs.
Murray turned to Brown on scoring plays twice when Vanderbilt pulled within a touchdown.
On a third-and-10 in the fourth quarter, Murray found Brown on the right side outran safety Kenny Ladler to the end zone with 13:57 to play and a 33-21 lead. A Zac Stacy 19-yard touchdown run brought the Commodores to within 33-28 with 9:15 left.
The Commodores (3-3, 1-3) lost 34-0 at Alabama and 21-3 at South Carolina the previous two games.
‚ÄúAt the end of the day, it‚Äôs a win,‚Äù Murray said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs pretty ugly whatever it is, but it‚Äôs a win. We have a lot to work on pretty much.‚Äù