Georgia vs. South Carolina
When: 6 p.m. Sept. 19
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens
On TV: ESPN
NASHVILLE, Tenn.— Georgia coach Mark Richt has to be thankful he has Nick Chubb on his roster to help make up for the Bulldogs’ anemic passing game.
Chubb ran for 189 yards, Isaiah McKenzie returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown, and No. 10 Georgia beat Vanderbilt 31-14 on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Sony Michel had a 31-yard touchdown run and the Bulldogs (2-0) shook off a sluggish start that included linebacker Lorenzo Carter’s ejection for targeting and a shanked field goal.
Jordan Jenkins had two of Georgia’s three sacks, and the Bulldogs intercepted three passes, with Dominick Sanders returning the third 88 yards for the final touchdown. Richt said the Bulldogs made enough mistakes to lose and luckily did enough right to win.
“Just to get out of a game like this with a victory and still be able to learn from it will be very valuable to us, and that’ll be our goal,” Richt said.
Chubb and the Bulldogs’ defense helped Georgia overcome a shaky performance by its quarterbacks by rolling up 281 yards rushing. Greyson Lambert didn’t complete a pass in the first half and didn’t complete a pass until his eighth attempt early in the third quarter. He was 11 of 21 for 116 yards, and Brice Ramsey was 2 of 4 for 25 yards off the bench.
Lambert said he needed to calm down with the Bulldogs not changing their game plan.
“We know if we do our job it’ll come, but I’ve got to do a better job of throwing the football in the first half,” Lambert said.
Vanderbilt (0-2) was trying to beat Georgia in Nashville in back-to-back games for the first time since the 1950s. The Commodores pulled to 24-14 and recovered an onside kick with 4:30 left, but Jake Ganus intercepted Johnny McCrary’s pass in the end zone.
The Commodores held the ball for nearly 33 minutes and were outgained only 422-400 on offense.
“We had a hard time stopping Chubb,” said Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason. “We had guys try, but you have to make plays.”
The Bulldogs’ rough start included Carter being ejected on the second defensive series early in the opening minutes. He was flagged for targeting after hitting Johnny McCrary high helmet to helmet, popping the quarterback’s helmet off.
Marshall Morgan missed a 37-yard field goal so badly left and short that it looked as if it had been blocked in the opening quarter.
Morgan missed a 43-yarder wide left in the fourth.
Luckily, Chubb and McKenzie got Georgia going.
Pinned at his own 9, Chubb broke off a 68-yard run and only missed scoring when Vandy cornerback Tre Herndon chasing him down on the sideline. The Bulldogs forced a three-and-out, and McKenzie returned the ensuing punt for a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. The sophomore sat out the opener because of a sore hamstring, and McKenzie turned in the third TD off a punt return for his career.
Michel finished off the drive giving Georgia a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter. Georgia had only 25 yards passing at halftime on nine pass attempts.
“We have to be more balanced than we were today,” Richt said.
Vanderbilt missed a chance to pull within 14-9 when Tommy Openshaw clanked a 44-yard field goal attempt off the left upright after connecting from 47 and 41 yards.
The Bulldogs seized control in the third quarter, outgaining Vandy 143-10 and scoring 10 points. Morgan kicked a field goal after Wilkerson’s interception, and Lambert finished off a drive with a 5-yard TD run of his own.