Specials teams mistakes, offensive struggles plague No. 15 Georgia in loss to Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Georgia’s special teams shortcomings were too much to overcome this time.

It not only may end up costing the Bulldogs a chance to return to the Southeastern Conference championship game but it could have changed the entire complexion of their season.

The No. 15 Bulldogs blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead Saturday when Trent Frix’s high snap hit off punter Collin Barber’s hands and soared over his head.

Vanderbilt recovered and scored on the next play on a 13-yard touchdown run by Jerron Seymour with 2:53 left. The go-ahead touchdown helped the Commodores upset No. 15 Georgia 31-27.

“It’s definitely one that’s going to hit us deep,” Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “We thought we had it won. We should have won. Some unfortunate things happened today, and we’ve just got to come back ready to work.”

Georgia (4-3, 3-2) has gone from a top-10 team and national title contender just nine days ago to a team one game over .500 that could fall out of the polls on Sunday.

The Bulldogs couldn’t overcome two controversial targeting penalties, four total yards of offense in the fourth quarter from the injury-depleted unit and three big special teams mistakes.

“Definitely very stunning,” said quarterback Aaron Murray, who completed 16 of 28 passes for a season-low 114 yards with an interception. “It’s hard.”

Vanderbilt also scored a touchdown on a second-quarter fake field goal and got in the end zone again after recovering a punt fumbled by Damian Swann at Georgia’s 36.

Georgia lost for the first time at Vanderbilt (4-3, 1-3) since 1991 and the second time in its last 19 meetings.

The Bulldogs beat Tennessee and North Texas despite punts blocked for touchdowns and a kickoff return for touchdown.

Not this time.

“Any time you turn it over or make some type of mistake like that, you would expect that it would cost you,” coach Mark Richt said.

Said safety Corey Moore of special teams breakdowns: “I know we are struggling a little bit. There’s no excuse. It’s all on us.”

Richt said the special teams didn’t bear more responsibility for the loss than other areas of the team.

“I’m not going to say that,” he said. “I’m going to say we certainly made mistakes on special teams, but it’s a team game. Offense has a responsibility. Defense has a responsibility. Special teams have their responsibility as well. We win as a team, we lose as a team.”

Missouri (7-0, 3-0) holds a two-game lead in the SEC East race over Georgia, South Carolina and Florida, which are all 3-2 in the league. Georgia and Florida are off until a Nov. 2 game in Jacksonville, Fla.

Vanderbilt won despite losing starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels with a leg injury in the first half.

Georgia’s sack leader, Ray Drew, was relegated to the locker room after being ejected for a targeting penalty in the second quarter.

The momentum seemed to belong to Georgia after freshman cornerback Shaq Wiggins 39-yard interception return for a touchdown. The Bulldogs opened a 27-14 third-quarter lead after a 23-yard Marshall Morgan field goal, but the Bulldogs couldn’t hold on.

Vanderbilt pulled to 27-21 after Swann fumbled. Another targeting penalty was called on linebacker Ramik Wilson on receiver Jonathan Krause. That was overturned, but the 15-yard penalty stood and the Commodores scored on a 2-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Patton Robinette.

Georgia tailback Todd Gurley missed his third straight game with an ankle injury.

Chris Conley, Georgia’s best remaining healthy receiver, was injured on the final Hail Mary play that was intercepted. He was on crutches after the game with a sprained right ankle.

“We probably need an off week about now,” Richt said. “Hopefully it will give some guys a little more time to get healthy, and it also give us some time to assess where we are and where we’re going.”

MORE COVERAGE

Specials teams mistakes, offensive struggles plague No. 15 Georgia in loss to Vanderbilt

UGA’s defense fails to hold off Vanderbilt’s comeback

Georgia postgame report: ‘We’re going to stick together’

Freshman TB Douglas on late fumble: ‘It’s unacceptable to do that’

Slideshow: Grading Georgia’s performance against Vanderbilt

Richt doesn’t comment on targeting calls, LB Jenkins says rule ‘ruins the game’

Interceptions finally come for Bulldogs

Quick hits: WR Rumph winds up not seeing the field

Slideshow: Georgia vs. Vanderbilt

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Watermelon at practice today. Here’s Mark Richt and Georgia Watermelon Association Queen Jennifer Eadie (UGA pic). http://t.co/USDyZJV99c

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