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Georgia linebacker Monty Rice (32) looks across the Vanderbilt offensive line during the first half of the University of Georgia football game at Vanderbilt University on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo/Gabriella Audi www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

NASHVILLE — One question mark heading into the Georgia’s match-up against the Commodores was stopping Vanderbilt’s “big three” on offense. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Kalija Lipscomb and Jared Pinkney make up this three headed monster, all of whom were voted to the preseason All-SEC team.

This concern was quickly put to rest when the defense showed up ready to play, ultimately not allowing any touchdowns.

“I think those three players (Vaughn, Lipscomb and Pinkney) are good players. I know from how we played them last year, we struggled last year, to be able to control these guys,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “Now, they didn’t have a quarterback and that’s a big difference. They have a good football team offensively when it comes to those three guys.”

Georgia’s defense held Vanderbilt and the "big three" to only two field goals, slowing down the Commodores' red-zone offense before they could score six. 

“I think we had some guys who were nervous and that it was their first game at UGA, especially SEC on the road,” junior Monty Rice said. “[But] I’m proud of how the guys all gave effort.”

A duo of Rice and Mark Webb tied as the leading tacklers for the Bulldogs. They each had seven total tackles, four of which were made solo.

Webb's performance beat his high of six tackles last season against Auburn. Rice came out strong in his season opener in Nashville after missing five games last season due to injury.

Redshirt freshman Azeez Ojulari also contributed to the defensive success by adding on six total tackles, two solo tackles and half a sack. The 240-pound linebacker reached Riley Neal first for the sack on a crucial third-and-6 for a loss of 11-yards in the third quarter.

“First sack,” Ojulari said. “It felt great.”

The Bulldog defense kept Vanderbilt to 225 total offensive yards compared to Georgia’s 481 yards produced on offense.

“We had a lot of young guys on defense step up and play well,” Smart said. “Between batted balls, between the sacks, the attacking of the ball, I thought they played really good in regards to that.”

Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason was impressed with how the defense performed in the opening game of each team's season. 

"I didn't think we were outmatched, [but] I thought their speed getting off the blocks and getting to the ball looked a little different at times," Mason said. "Overall, I think it's a really good Georgia team. That's why they're No. 3 in the country."

After what looked to be a home game in Nashville for the Bulldogs with the blanket of red that surrounded them, the Georgia defense is ready to build on what they did in front of their fans on Saturday night. 

There is still work to be done. Georgia struggled when it came to penalties. The Bulldogs’ offensive and defensive units racked up 10 penalties in total for a loss of 117 yards.

“We had some errors, some undisciplined penalties,” said Rice. “We just can’t have that.”

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