Game Notes: Georgia vs. Vanderbilt
Sept. 17, 2012
Game 4: #5 Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC) vs. Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Georgia and Vanderbilt resume their series on Saturday, which first began in 1893 in Nashville. Georgia leads the all-time series 52-18-2. The Bulldogs have won 16 of the last 17 meetings. Georgia edged the Commodores 33-28 last year in Nashville. Aaron Murray posted his second straight career-high day versus Vanderbilt after going 22-for-38 for 326 yards. Leading 26-21, Murray connected with Marlon Brown for a 75-yard touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter to help distance the Bulldogs. The Commodores blocked a punt late in the game, but punter Drew Butler made a game-saving tackle to help seal the victory. On Vanderbilt's last trip to Athens, Georgia shut out the Commodores 43-0 on homecoming in 2010. Richt is 10-1 against Vanderbilt.
Georgia is No. 5 in this week's AP poll and No. 6 in the latest USA Today poll. This is the Bulldogs' top ranking since 2008. Coincidentally, UGA will be aiming for its first 4-0 start since that year. That year the Bulldogs finished 10-3. Since Mark Richt took over as head coach in 2001, Georgia has started the season 4-0 five different times.
A Quick Glance At Vanderbilt
Last Saturday, the Commodores (1-2, 0-1 SEC) walloped Presbyterian 58-0 in Nashville. It was VU's largest shutout since defeating The Citadel 58-0 in 1999.
The Commodores, with junior quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels at the controls for the first time this year, tallied 605 yards of total offense. Senior running back Zac Stacy finished with 174 yards on eight carries including an 86-yard touchdown run on Vanderbilt's first offensive play against the Blue Hose. Carta-Samuels made his first career start for Vanderbilt after transferring from Wyoming in 2011 where he was a two-year starter. Jordan Rodgers, younger brother of Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers, had started the last nine games for the Commodores.
Vanderbilt opened its season with a 17-13 home loss to ninth-ranked South Carolina and then allowed Northwestern to score 17 points in the fourth quarter two weeks ago in Evanston, Ill., for a 23-13 win.
Piling On The Points Early And Late
Georgia scored 45 points versus Buffalo during the first game of 2012 and then had a 32-point outburst in the second half against Missouri for a 41-20 win. Georgia outscored Florida Atlantic 42-6 in the final three quarters and topped the Owls 56-20. This marks the first time in Bulldog history that the team has scored 40+ points in their first three games. The Bulldogs have scored 142 points to their opponents' 63 this season. Georgia's most prolific scoring output during the first three games of a season came in 1910. The Bulldogs took off for 202 points that year, highlighted by a 101-0 season opener against Locust Grove (then beat Gordon 79-10 before topping Alabama 22-0).
And don't overlook the Bulldog defense this year as they have yet to play a game at full strength. Still, Georgia's first three opponents have combined to score only 23 points in the second half and one touchdown came on an interception return. Once Georgia has taken the lead this season, the Bulldogs are outscoring their opponents 111-43. Georgia's reserves saw significant action in the wins over Buffalo and Florida Atlantic as those teams managed to score late touchdowns. However in the Missouri contest two weeks ago in Columbia, once Georgia grabbed a lead, it outscored the Tigers 24-0.
Georgia Among Best in the SEC Under Richt Since 2001
Jarvis Jones Anchors Defense
Junior OLB Jarvis Jones looks to be back this week after missing the Florida Atlantic game with a groin injury that he played with in his dominating performance at Missouri two weeks ago. He exploded for nine tackles, including two sacks/tackles for loss, his first career interception, two forced fumbles and five quarterback pressures to pace the Bulldog defense during the 41-20 rout of the Tigers. The 2011 All-American returned his pick 21 yards to the Missouri 1-yard line to set up one of the Bulldogs' fourth quarter touchdowns. On the next series, Jones sacked QB James Franklin and forced a fumble that led to Georgia's fifth and final touchdown.
The Columbus native has 16.5 sacks over his last 16 games. For his effort versus the Tigers, Jones also received a helmet sticker from the ESPN College Football Live crew, was named the national defensive player of the week by the Lott IMPACT Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Trophy, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
On A Regular Season Roll
During the 2011 season, Georgia went on a 10-game winning streak. This was the longest inseason winning streak since the 1982 team under Vince Dooley went a perfect 11-0 during the regular season. Georgia has now won 13 consecutive regular season games following its three victories in 2012. The streak ranks as the second-longest active regular season winning streak in the nation behind LSU (16). This is the longest regular season winning streak for the Bulldogs under Mark Richt. UGA won 11 straight games over two seasons once before, winning the final seven in 2007 and the first four in 2008.
ON DECK: Tennessee
The Bulldogs are 18-21-2 all-time versus the Vols. However, Georgia has won three out of the last four meetings, including a 20-12 victory in Knoxville last year. During Tennessee's last trip to Athens, the Bulldogs knocked off UT 41-14. The Vols are coached by Derek Dooley, who is the son of the legendary Bulldog coach Vince Dooley.
Murray Setting The Tone For SEC Quarterbacks
Junior QB Aaron Murray is one of the nation's elite at his position. During the offseason, Murray graduated with a degree in Psychology after posting a GPA of 3.4 and is now in graduate school. The Tampa, Fla., native finished 2011 with a school record 35 touchdown passes. In his 19 wins as a starter, Murray has 47 TDs to just 11 INTs. Murray is the SEC's leading active player in total offensive yards (7,314), completions (498), TD responsibility (75), TD passes (67) and passing yards (7,040).
In the road win over Missouri, Murray tied his career high in completions with 22. Against FAU, he tallied a career-high 342 yards and moved into a tie for second on the school's all-time career TD pass list.
A Look At The Offensive Line
Georgia's starting offensive line this season has featured junior Kenarious Gates at LT, junior Chris Burnette at RG, junior Dallas Lee at LG, sophomore David Andrews at C and freshman John Theus at RT. Lee left the Florida Atlantic game with an ankle injury. Mark Beard relieved Lee, but switched to LT and Gates took over the LG spot. Andrews and Theus made their first career starts versus Buffalo while Gates lined up at LT against the Bulls for the first time after having 12 previous starts at guard. Theus became the first true freshman starter at tackle since Trinton Sturdivant in 2007. Sturdivant started all 13 games at tackle that season.
Who To Cover?
Georgia has had a different 100- yard receiver in all three games this season. Most recently, redshirt sophomore SE Michael Bennett hauled in four catches for 110 yards, including a career-long 67-yard touchdown catch. Bennett was coming off a career-high eight catches for 79 yards in the road victory over Missouri a week earlier.
At Missouri, senior SE Marlon Brown returned from a hamstring injury that kept him out of game one to snag a career-high eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Senior FLK Tavarres King, who piled up 117 yards and a score in the opener versus Buffalo, added another two catches for 41 yards and a touchdown against Missouri. King, who has already graduated in Social Studies Education, is the SEC's active leader in both receptions (104) and receiving yards (1,864).
Junior TE Arthur Lynch posted the top performance of his career in the 56-20 win over FAU. Lynch snagged three catches for 73 yards and scored for the first time while wearing red and black. Also of note, sophomore CB/SE Malcolm Mitchell made his first appearance on offense this season and had one catch for 49 yards. Mitchell, who has started all three games this year at CB, earned All-SEC Freshman honors last year after finishing with 45 catches for 665 yards and four touchdowns.
Georgia has utilized a trio of weapons at tailback through the opening three games, with all three backs having 12 or fewer carries in each game. True freshman Todd Gurley tallied a career-high 111 yards and a score on 10 carries (11.1 avg.) versus FAU. He made his debut against Buffalo and was named the SEC Freshman Player of the Week after running for 100 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries. He leads the SEC in all-purpose yds. (171.3) and in kickoff return yds. (34.7).
Gurley is not the Bulldogs' only weapon in the backfield. True freshman and Gurley's roommate, Keith Marshall, has also added 182 yards rushing and a score during the Bulldogs' three wins, including a 100-yard performance versus FAU. Redshirt sophomore Ken Malcome started the opener and ran for 33 yards and a touchdown to help pace Georgia down the stretch at Missouri.
No. 2 Signal Caller For The Bulldogs
Hutson Mason played in four games at quarterback in 2011, going 18- of-30 for 254 yards and two touchdowns, and has appeared in eight games over the last two seasons. In 2012, Georgia aims to redshirt Mason to give him a year separation with junior Aaron Murray. Mason is currently No. 2 on the depth chart.
Redshirt freshman QB Christian LeMay has appeared in two games this season. Redshirt sophomore Parker Welch is the only other quarterback with collegiate playing experience. Welch played in two games last season and completed his only pass for 20 yards versus Coastal Carolina.
DEFENSE & SPECIAL TEAMS
Georgia has made excellent second-half adjustments as opponents have scored just 23 points in the second half, and six of those came on an interception return for a touchdown. In its most recent contest, the Bulldog defense blanked FAU in the second half. The Owls' touchdown came on the aforementioned fourth quarter pick-six.
Georgia surrendered a total of 23 points to Buffalo in the season opener. It was a tale of two halves for the Bulldog defense. The Bulls had two touchdown drives that covered 75 yards each and one that covered 94 yards. Georgia did have a goal-line stand at the end of the opening half that resulted in a Buffalo field goal.
Against Missouri, Georgia blanked the Tigers in the first and fourth quarters and allowed 10 points each in the second and third quarters. Missouri's two touchdown drives were courtesy of quick-strike scores of 41 and 69 yards. Both of the drives mentioned above were three plays each that were shorter than a minute. After Georgia fell behind 17-9, the Bulldogs outscored Missouri 32-3 the rest of the way including 17-0 in the fourth quarter.
SEC Sack Leader Jarvis Jones Is Back At It
Junior OLB and 2011 Butkus Award finalist Jarvis Jones gives the Bulldogs a solid foundation at linebacker. This season, he has 17 tackles, including 3.5 sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles, despite not playing versus Florida Atlantic (groin). Jones earned multiple national player of the week honors for his dominating performance versus the Tigers. A consensus All-American, he led the SEC and was tied for fifth nationally with 13.5 sacks (which was just a half sack off David Pollack's school record 14 set in 2002) last year.
Youthful Linebacker Making Impression
With All-American Jarvis Jones sidelined with an injury versus FAU, several young Bulldogs linebackers made their presence known against the Owls. After a career-high 10 tackles against Missouri, sophomore ILB Amarlo Herrera piled up seven tackles versus FAU plus had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown. The pick came on the next play after the Owls had thwarted a Bulldog drive with an INT in the end zone. Herrera ranks second on the team with 22 tackles.
True freshman Jordan Jenkins made his first career start with Jones out and finished with three tackles and a pass break-up. After missing the first two games of 2012, junior OLB Chase Vasser had seven tackles against FAU, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Senior ILB Michael Gilliard is third on the team with 19 tackles this season.
Stingy Secondary Mostly Intact
Georgia featured a revamped secondary in its first two games with two projected starters unavailable (senior All-American Bacarri Rambo and senior Sanders Commings). The Bulldogs lined up in the nickel versus Buffalo with redshirt freshman CB Devin Bowman, senior SS Shawn Williams, redshirt sophomore FS Connor Norman, senior CB Branden Smith and sophomore CB Damian Swann. This marked the first starts and the most significant playing time for both Bowman and Norman. Swann led the team with a career-high eight tackles in just his second career start. Commings returned to the lineup as a S/CB against Florida Atlantic after missing the first two games and had four stops.
Sophomore Malcolm Mitchell has started the first three games at CB. The Valdosta native recorded six stops and two pass breakups during the victory over the Tigers. Mitchell was Georgia's second-leading receiver in 2011 with 45 catches for 665 yards and four touchdowns. Mitchell missed the season opener with an ankle injury.
Veteran Presence Up Front
Senior N John Jenkins, a 6-3, 358-pound native of Meriden, Conn., tied his career high with six tackles versus Buffalo and added another five stops at Missouri. Jenkins is in his second season with the Bulldogs and is flanked by seniors Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington at the DE spots. Opening with four tackles against the Bulls, Washington tallied five stops at Missouri, including 2.5 tackles for loss. Junior DE Garrison Smith, who posted six stops of his own versus Buffalo, and junior N Kwame Geathers are also in the rotation up front. Geathers blocked a PAT against FAU to give the Bulldogs four in the Richt era. Freshmen Specialists
The Bulldogs have a pair of true freshmen specialists. P Collin Barber of Cartersville, Ga., and PK Marshall Morgan of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., have replaced a couple of Bulldogs who are currently NFL starters (Drew Butler- Pittsburgh, Blair Walsh-Minnesota). Morgan ranks fourth in the SEC among kickers with 27 points. He has hit 3-of-4 field goals and connected on 17-of-18 extra points. His performance at Missouri included a 41-yard FG and a 52-yard FG, which was the longest for the Bulldogs on the road since Walsh drilled a 53 yarder in 2009 (Oklahoma State).
Barber lifted a 57-yard punt on his first try against Buffalo and is averaging 40.9 yds. this year. This season is the first since 1985 that Georgia opened with a punter and placekicker without any collegiate experience. That year, punter Cris Carpenter and placekicker Steve Crumley were redshirt freshman. Redshirt sophomore P Adam Erickson has recorded six "pooch" punts for the Bulldogs this season, averaging 35.8 yds/game. He had a career-long 46 yarder against Florida Atlantic. Erickson has placed four of his six attempts inside the 20-yard line.
The Return Men
Georgia has featured a couple of newcomers returning kickoffs and punts in 2012. Freshman TB Todd Gurley tied a school, SEC and NCAA record with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter versus Buffalo. Gurley leads the SEC in kickoff return average at 34.7. His return came on the third time he touched the ball as a collegiate player. Gurley was named the College Football Performance
Awards National Kickoff Returner of the Week and the SEC Freshman Player of the Week for his efforts. This was the first time the Bulldogs have had a 100-yard return since Brandon Boykin accomplished the feat versus Kentucky in 2010. Boykin had three of them in his career.
The Bulldogs have had 17 special teams touchdowns since Mark Richt took the head coaching job in 2001. While Missouri attempted to kick away from Gurley for most of the game, the Tarboro, N.C., native still had two returns for 65 yards against the Tigers.
CB Damian Swann had his first career punt return covering 30 yards versus Buffalo before having one return for 10 yards against Missouri. He had four fair catches in the game.
Another note in the punt return game, two regulars on offense have made significant contributions through the first two contests. Senior running back Richard Samuel thwarted Missouri's fake punt attempt in the fourth quarter. Samuel shed his block and tackled Tiger punter Trey Barrow to give the Bulldogs the ball at the Missouri 38-yard line. Sophomore FLK Chris Conley blocked a Buffalo punt to set up a 35-yard field goal. Conley's block was the 20th punt block in the Richt era.
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