Georgia vs. Vanderbilt
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Nashville, Tenn.
On TV: CBS
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason is counting on his Commodores making a big jump between losing their season opener and hosting No. 10 Georgia.
Two interceptions in the end zone cost the Commodore in a 14-12 loss to Western Kentucky, and the challenge gets even bigger Saturday when the Bulldogs (1-0) visit for the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Mason knows he still has a young team, but he’s reminding his Commodores of how Vandy beat Georgia 31-27 here two years ago.
“Our football team is not going to bow down to anybody,” Mason said. “We may be young, but this team’s got fight and willing to compete and right now they’re in a great spot.”
Mason’s defense certainly has the attention of Georgia coach Mark Richt. He visited with some of the Western Kentucky coaches this offseason, so Richt was very familiar with the quarterback and offense Vanderbilt held to 247 total yards.
Even more impressive was Vanderbilt allowing only 37 yards rushing, the best opening performance in the SEC.
“Vanderbilt just had a great performance against them defensively,” Richt said.
Georgia will counter with a backfield headed up by Nick Chubb. The Bulldogs ran for 243 yards themselves in a 51-14 win over Louisiana Monroe shortened by nearly 10 minutes because of severe weather.
Richt is more concerned about his Bulldogs playing better in Nashville than they have in recent trips.
Georgia routed Vanderbilt 34-10 in 2009, but two of its past three wins came by a combined five points in Music City.
Richt calls it a big challenge.
“That’s something we’ve got to work on, we’ve got to solve,” Richt said.
His Bulldogs certainly remember losing 31-27 to Vanderbilt in 2013, a loss that stands out in a series dominated by Georgia. Georgia has not lost consecutive games to Vanderbilt in Nashville since 1956 and 1958.
“It was our fault and we didn’t go there and handle our business like we should have,” Georgia center Brandon Kublanow said.
Here are some things to watch Saturday:
SLOW DOWN CHUBB: Georgia’s sophomore running back has topped 100 yards rushing in each of his last nine starts, the longest active streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Chubb opened the season running for 120 yards on just 16 carries, and Mason called Georgia’s backfield a “three-headed monster” starting with Chubb. So how does Mason plan to try to contain Chubb? The Vandy coach said, “Tackle him.”
I KNOW YOU: Richt has seen Vanderbilt quarterback Johnny McCrary plenty, at least back in high school in Decatur, Georgia. Bulldogs linebacker Davin Bellamy played AAU basketball with McCrary for four years, and the two remain friends. Bellamy said he planned to contact McCrary. “We used to ride in ‘A-Vans’ and take naps on each other’s shoulders,” Bellamy said.
ERASE MISTAKES: McCrary showed in Vandy’s opener that he can run to take the pressure off running back Ralph Webb with 66 yards rushing. But the quarterback was intercepted twice in the end zone, and Vanderbilt failed to score on three of five trips inside the 10.
POINT GEORGIA: The Bulldogs are off to a good start to top last year’s scoring pace even with new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. They ranked eighth nationally and were the SEC’s best scoring 41.3 points per game in 2014.
WAIT, WHO’S HOME TEAM: Georgia will be wearing its usual home red jerseys with Vanderbilt breaking out its new alternate uniform nicknamed “Deep Water” with a gray jersey and pants, and the words “Anchor Down” are featured on the outside of the right leg. That also comes with a black helmet and a gold facemask.