Dawgs Take out Vandy
ATHENS – It never should have been so close, and when Vanderbilt lined up for a fourth-down play in the final minutes of the game, Asher Allen blamed himself for the numbers on the scoreboard.
For the second week in a row, Georgia
had dominated an opponent, only to wonder why the score in the fourth quarter didn’t tell the real story. Too many chances – like the interception Allen let slip through his hands just a few plays before Vanderbilt
scored a touchdown to pull within seven – had been missed.
So when Commodores quarterback Mackenzi Adams hit Jamie Graham over the middle on fourth-and-4 with just a shade over two minutes to play, Allen was determined to make amends.
The tight end tripped him up, but he recovered, dashed toward Graham and dished out a hit that knocked the receiver back to the ground – inches short of the first-down marker – to preserve a 24-14 Georgia win.
“Football’s a game of inches, you always hear that phrase everywhere,” Allen said, “and most definitely that was true (Saturday).”
For the first 58 minutes of play, Georgia had no problem picking up yards – but those inches were another story.
Two field goals were missed, third downs proved an impossible obstacle, and the interceptions – that’s what still haunted Allen once Blair Walsh mercifully put the game out of reach with a field goal with 17 seconds left.
“Everybody had opportunities,” said Allen after the Bulldogs watched three catchable picks float through their hands or bounce off their chests. “Whether it was we were focused on something else, focused on whether your feet were in bounds, things like that – a dropped pick is a dropped pick, and that’s unacceptable here. We’re getting ourselves in position to make plays, but we’ve got to capitalize.”
One week after dominating Tennessee only to take a six-point lead into the fourth quarter, Georgia again struggled to put points on the board despite moving the ball at will for much of the contest.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-0 lead early behind A.J. Green and Knowshon Moreno, who combined for 304 of Georgia’s 425 total yards in the game, but Vanderbilt battled back, with Adams hitting Graham for a touchdown to pull within seven just before the half.
“It’s deflating when we seemed to have control of the game and lose control right before the half,” head coach Mark Richt said.
Vanderbilt hung tough in the second half thanks to a litany of missed chances for the Bulldogs.
Allen’s dropped interception was followed by a Commodores touchdown – again from Adams to Graham. Vance Cuff dropped a pick that hit him between the numbers on his jersey. The Bulldogs stumbled on first and second down, then found themselves in too many impossible third-and-long situations. For the game, they converted just one third-down play.
By the fourth quarter, Georgia had done everything except put the game away.
“Everybody expects us to score 40 and roll up and down the field on everybody, but that’s not how it usually happens in this league,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “When you’re backed up, and you’ve got to have it, and you’ve got to run the ball and kill some clock, for us to do that two weeks in a row, I’m real proud of the way our guys fought.”
For the second straight week, Georgia managed to engineer a crucial drive late in the game to quell a rally. Against Tennessee, the Bulldogs ran nearly 11 minutes off the clock on a 17-play drive that ended in a field goal. Saturday, they looked nearly as impressive, picking up six first downs in a span of eight plays, led by Moreno, who finished with a season-high 173 yards rushing.
“That’s what we needed, and it reminded me of last week against Tennessee when we had that long fourth-quarter drive,” fullback Shaun Chapas said. “I think that’s what we were all thinking about. We knew we needed another one of those to put the game away.”
The drive stalled at the Vanderbilt 18, however, and Walsh missed his second field goal of the game – putting Georgia’s defense in charge of sealing the win.
That’s exactly what Allen did with his fourth-down tackle – possibly saving Georgia’s season by just a handful of inches.
“Our mind-set was pretty much that we have to make a play,” Curran said. “We’re trying to get to the (Georgia) Dome, get to the SEC championship, and these are the type of moments that set us apart, that can make us legends, that can take us to the next level.”
Afterward, it wasn’t Allen’s play – or Moreno’s big day or Green’s seven catches – that were on the minds of the Bulldogs.
It was the plays they didn’t make.
Allen’s final opportunity sealed things, but it was hardly enough to make him forget about the one he missed that nearly cost them the game. The final tackle, he said, was only a minor silver lining.
“I won’t be able to sleep tonight,” Allen said, “but I’ll be a little happy."