NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Southeastern Conference win, and a little offense, can provide a nice boost to a team. For proof, see the Georgia Bulldogs.
They found the end zone four times a week after being shut out from even getting close, Joe Cox built up his confidence with some timely throws and Georgia beat Vanderbilt 34-10 Saturday to leave the Volunteer State a lot happier than they arrived.
Now it's time for the Bulldogs to enjoy a week off and start thinking ahead to the annual battle with border rival and second-ranked Florida.
"It felt good coming into the game and going into the bye week with a win," Georgia receiver A.J. Green said. "We have nothing to lose. Going into the Florida game, we're just going to walk in, play hard and see what happens."
The Bulldogs have experienced a gamut of emotions over the past three weeks. That celebration penalty that led to their home loss to LSU, then a miserable 45-19 loss at Tennessee resulted in their first two-game skid since 2006.
Coach Mark Richt was busy answering questions about why Georgia couldn't score or stop anyone.
Georgia rebounded by outgaining Vanderbilt 399-296 on offense, and the Bulldogs did it against a defense ranked 22nd nationally. Cox threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns, and Caleb King scored twice by running for one touchdown and catching a pass for another.
The defense that ranked 100th in the country in scoring came up with three sacks and an interception that set up the Bulldogs' first touchdown.
Richt said his Bulldogs (4-3, 3-2) were emotionally ready for this game after a tough week.
"I've had weeks like this in my career, but I don't pay attention to the outside influences. I was convinced that the best thing for us to do was to put blinders on and put on a good performance (Saturday) for Georgia football," he said.
The Bulldogs didn't start well. Cox threw incomplete on his first four passes, including one picked off by Casey Heyward in the end zone.
But Reshad Jones intercepted a Larry Smith pass, and Cox found Green two plays later on a short pass that the receiver took 65 yards untouched for a 7-0 lead. It was the longest play for both Cox and Green in their careers.
"Good things happen for us when we get the ball to him," Richt said of Green.
Vanderbilt (2-5, 0-4) mixed some things up with a fake punt that worked early, played defensive back Jamie Graham at receiver for the first time this season and even replaced Smith with Mackenzi Adams late. The Commodores had their best scoring game against an SEC defense all season.
It wasn't enough, and now time is running out for the Commodores to become bowl eligible for a second straight season.
"It's tough, but we have a good group of guys," said Vandy tight end Brandon Barden, who caught a 5-yard TD pass. "We can roll over and die right now, but it's not going to happen."
Vanderbilt is in the midst of a 12-game season that offers no breaks. Next up is a visit to South Carolina.
The Bulldogs get to enjoy their off week coming off a win, even if it's in a series they now lead 50-18-2. Richt personally is 8-1 against Vanderbilt, a program Georgia has won 14 of the past 15 against.
"I don't want to know what it would have been like if we came out and lost three games in a row and then had an off week to think about it," Cox said. "We know we still have a lot of tough games left and luckily we're getting a break and luckily we ended our seven-game streak on a good note. We can go into the break, get refreshed and get ready for the next team."
That would be Florida in Jacksonville. The best thing about this win over Vanderbilt for Georgia might be how the Bulldogs finally got some good rushing production out of their young running backs.
They ran for 173 yards on 37 carries with freshman Washaun Ealey leading with 13 carries for 71 yards in his first start.
"It was effective when it needed to be," Cox said.