Prior to kickoff in Nashville on Saturday, Georgia ranked first in the SEC in overall defense, while Vanderbilt ranked last in overall offense. The Bulldogs continued their season of defensive dominance, shutting out the Commodores to stay undefeated in the 2021 season.
With today’s 62-point win, Georgia has recorded its largest victory on the road in program history.
While the Bulldogs’ defense gave up its first touchdown last week against South Carolina, they had yet to shut out a team in an entire game this season. After its defeat against Vanderbilt, Georgia now averages 5.75 points allowed per game in 2021.
“When we say nobody in our endzone, that means nobody,” said junior outside linebacker Nolan Smith. “If we’re playing the New England Patriots, they don’t go in our endzone, that’s just the defensive mindset.”
Redshirt freshman Kelee Ringo recorded his first career start on Saturday, and Smith was one of the Bulldogs’ three team captains.
“Kelee has improved each week, he has gained more confidence in our system, he has cut down his mental errors and we think he is going to be a good player,” said head coach Kirby Smart.
Georgia’s defensive action in the first quarter was highlighted by points scored on turnovers. In the middle of the first quarter, the Commodores’ James Ziglor III fumbled on the kickoff, and the ball was recovered by Daijun Edwards. The Bulldogs’ offense returned to the field and promptly scored their third touchdown of the afternoon after two short rushes by Zamir White.
In the next drive, Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals threw an interception on his first pass. Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith returned Seals’ pass for 20 yards, and the offense capitalized again, scoring a quick touchdown for the 28-0 lead.
Smart gave credit to his defense for forcing the turnovers, but also recognized that Vanderbilt contributed to the 35-point quarter as well.
“I give our guys credit because they came out ready to play and played hard, but Vanderbilt helped us too,” Smart said. “The turnovers certainly got it going our way a lot faster than it would’ve been.”
Vanderbilt lacked its previous rushing leader for the first time this season as Re’Mahn Davis is forced to have season-ending surgery to repair an injury that occurred against Stanford.
Without Davis, Georgia’s defense held the Commodores’ rushing game to only 53 yards, 41 of which came from quarterback Mike Wright. He and Seals combined for 18 attempts and only 24 passing yards, averaging 1.3 yards per attempt.
“Vanderbilt played a good, hard game and tried to run the ball a little bit offensively,” Smith said on keeping Vanderbilt from materializing on its running plays. “That is one of our team goals, to stop the run.”
By the middle of the third quarter, Georgia’s second-team defense stepped in to take over the remaining time in Vanderbilt Stadium. Veteran defensive lineman Jordan Davis started, but only played nine total snaps until he was removed.
Freshman Kamari Lassiter assumed a defensive back role in the third quarter, and recorded another interception on Wright.
“[The first-team defense] played well, and the other guys got to play because they played well,” Smart said. “The whole team got to grow as a unit because of our ability to play a lot of players.”