Vanderbilt faces huge task against No. 2 Georgia

National Sports

No. 2 Georgia will look to maintain its defensive dominance and its perfect record when it visits the struggling Vanderbilt in a Southeastern Conference game on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.

The Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0 SEC) have outscored their three opponents — then-No. 3 Clemson, Alabama-Birmingham and South Carolina — by a combined score of 106-23. They’ve allowed an opposing offense to find the end zone just once so far.

The Bulldogs are coming off a dominating, 40-13 win over visiting South Carolina. JT Daniels went 23-for-31 passing for 303 yards and three touchdowns and Kendall Milton (66 yards) James Cook (51 yards) and Zamir White (51 yards) powered a ground game that rushed for 184 yards on 31 carries — an average of 5.9 yards per attempt.

The Bulldogs amassed 491 yards of total offense and held South Carolina (2-1, 0-1) to 296 yards. The Gamecocks didn’t score a touchdown until they were trailing 40-6 in the fourth quarter and the Bulldogs had pulled many of their starters.

“That defense is about creating negative plays,” Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea told reporters. “They do well controlling the line of scrimmage, they play aggressively and they’re multiple in their coverage concepts. … I think finding ways to neutralize their front, finding ways to separate the first level with the second level, and trying to design some space for us to get the ball to play-makers will all be a part of the formula.”

While Daniels played the vast majority of snaps against the Gamecocks, he was pulled for a series in favor of Stetson Bennett, who threw an interception and didn’t complete a pass. Georgia coach Kirby Smart said both could play against the Commodores.

“It will be based on day-to-day, and how guys play in practice,” he said. “Practice matters.”

Georgia had three sacks, five tackles for a loss, a safety, a fumble recovery and forced a turnover on downs against the Gamecocks, whose quarterbacks were under constant pressure all game.

Georgia has traditionally had little trouble in Nashville. The Bulldogs have won 13 of their past 14 games in the Music City by an average of more than 18 points. Under coach Kirby Smart, they have outscored the Commodores 75-20 in two wins, including a 30-6 romp in their last visit in 2019.

Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-0) is coming off a 41-23 loss to visiting Stanford in a game which its defense allowed Cardinal freshman quarterback Tanner McKee to go 19-of-29 passing for 218 yards and accounted for three touchdowns. Stanford finished with 422 total yards, with 204 of it coming on the ground.

The Commodores will have a huge challenge in trying to stop a Georgia offense that behind Daniels has completed nearly 70 percent of its passes and has averaged 4.7 yards per carry behind White, who has averaged 5.7 yards per carry (28 carries, 159 yards). Freshman tight end Brock Bowers has 14 receptions — at least six more than any other Bulldog — for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Against Stanford, the Commodores were held to just three points for a stretch of more than 34 minutes that began with 4:19 left in the first half and ended when backup quarterback Michael Wright threw a touchdown pass to Cam Johnson on the game’s final play.

Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals has thrown for 553 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions, with his favorite target being Chris Pierce, who has 14 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown.

Vanderbilt’s biggest question is at running back, where Re’Mahn Davis, who had 44 rushes for 211 yards over three games, including 12 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinal, suffered a season-ending toe injury against Stanford.

He’ll likely be replaced by Rocko Griffin, who has 131 yards on 28 carries, and Patrick Smith, who has four carries for 17 yards.

–Field Level Media

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