NASHVILLE, Tenn. ‚Äî
For a while on Saturday, Vanderbilt was at the mercy of Georgia‚Äôs defense.
The Commodores‚Äô offense was struggling to gain ground, and it looked like Vanderbilt, which led the nation in interceptions before Saturday, was getting a taste of its own medicine as Brandon Boykin and Shawn Williams each intercepted a Larry Smith pass in the first half on the way to a 20-7 lead into halftime.
Even Vanderbilt‚Äôs lone first-half touchdown came after a fake punt caught the Bulldog by surprise, taking at least some of the blame away from Georgia‚Äôs defense.
It all just felt right, Georgia linebacker Ray Drew said.
‚ÄúIn the first half, we had our composure then,‚Äù Drew said. ‚ÄúWe weren‚Äôt letting the little things get to us, we were doing what we were supposed to do and taking care of the little fundamental things.‚Äù
But that‚Äôs about where things fell apart for the Bulldogs‚Äô defense.
After holding Vanderbilt to a single offensive touchdown in the first half, the Commodores trampled all over the field, more than doubling their first-half rushing total of 74 yard and finishing with 200 yards on the ground. And in what quickly became a furious rally, the game ended with Vanderbilt just 16 yards shy of the winning score.
‚ÄúWe kind of fell apart (in the second half), let emotions run a little too high, and things started going every which way,‚Äù Drew said.
It was a dizzying feeling for Georgia‚Äôs defense, which suddenly was struggling to stop Vanderbilt‚Äôs second-half surge.
As players gathered after the game, they struggled to describe what exactly sent them off the tracks in the second half. It was a little bit Georgia, a little bit Vanderbilt, and too much pressure, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones said.
‚ÄúI really don‚Äôt know what happened,‚Äù Jones said. ‚ÄúThey just came out in the second half and started playing at a whole different level. We were out of position on a lot of plays, which is the mental part of the game, and the quarterback took control of the game.‚Äù
But if you‚Äôve been following along as Georgia has righted its season from the brink of disaster, you might feel the defense has earned itself a sloppy game.
Maybe so, but Jones said he was reluctant to place the blame or analyze it much further. Not every victory is perfect, after all.
‚ÄúEvery win is not going to be like you want it,‚Äù Jones said. ‚ÄúI definitely think we‚Äôre putting in the time and the effort, and our coache are putting in a whole lot of time, staying up late at night, gameplanning us, trying to put us in the right position to make plays so we can win.
‚ÄúBut it‚Äôs the SEC, and no win is going to be pretty. You‚Äôre not going to have a 42-0 blowout every week.‚Äù