Aaron Murray threw for a career-high 326 yards and three touchdowns, and Blair Walsh kicked four field goals as the Georgia Bulldogs held off Vanderbilt 33-28 for their fifth straight victory Saturday night.
“We definitely have to work on finishing games off,” Murray said. “But at the end of the day it is a win. Pretty, ugly, whatever it is, it’s a win. We have to go back this bye week and work on our fundamentals. We have a lot to work on.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt agrees, saying he was more thankful than anything else for a win that helped the Bulldogs (5-2, 4-1) keep pace in the East with South Carolina, a 14-12 winner over Mississippi State earlier.
“I just don’t know if we are ready to continue on top of the Eastern Division the way we played tonight,” Richt said. “We have to get better in a lot of areas.”
Vanderbilt (3-3, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) hadn’t beaten Georgia in Nashville since 1991, and Udom Umoh blocked Drew Butler’s punt with 7 seconds left to give the Commodores one last chance at the Georgia 20 before a substitution infraction backed the Commodores up to the Georgia 25.
“I am just thankful that Butler had the presence of mind to get up and make a play,” Richt said. “Because if he doesn’t make a play, the game’s over.”
Jordan Rodgers overthrew Chris Boyd in the end zone, leaving a second for a final play. Rodgers was hit as he threw short to tight end Brandon Barden, who was tackled well short at the 16.
“You’d love to scoop and score ...,” Vandy coach James Franklin said. “It wasn’t for a lack of effort. It didn’t bounce our way.”
The emotions of the game didn’t end there.
As the teams headed toward the middle of the field, Franklin said he was trying to find Richt when he apparently had a heated discussion with Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. The coordinator, who was seen making a choke sign as Florida lined up for the winning field goal last year, was brief with reporters.
“I love my players. I’m going to support my players,” Grantham said.
Franklin said some things were said that he didn’t think were appropriate. He said only that he had a discussion with one of Richt’s assistants that didn’t go well, but Franklin said he explained to Richt what happened and that the situation is for the head coaches to handle.
“We are not going to sit back and take stuff from anybody. Anybody. No one,” Franklin said. “Those days are long gone, and they are never coming back. Ever.”
Richt said he didn’t know what happened after the game ended. He said he had heard a couple of versions but it was hard to know which was the truth.
“All I know is that I hate the fact that at the end of the game we can’t just shake hands like gentlemen and walk off the field like men of integrity,” Richt said.
Georgia also intercepted three passes, the last by Bacarri Rambo with 1:10 left, to win its fifth straight and 16th in 17 games in this series.
The hectic ending was fitting on a night when a transformer on the east concourse of the stadium blew and knocked out four sets of lights with 2:53 left in the first half. Workers fixed a fuse and got all but one stand working by early in the third quarter.
Walsh clanked his first field goal attempt off the left upright and missed another wide right.
The Commodores had the ball twice in the final 2:30, first when Casey Heyward picked off a Murray pass at the Vandy 2. Rambo ended that drive with his interception, but the Bulldogs, who had to kick so many field goals, couldn’t pick up a first down to run out the clock, which set up the final few plays.
Murray threw two TDs to Marlon Brown, the last a 75-yarder with 13:57 left that proved to be the winner and the longest TD play for both quarterback and receiver. Murray also connected with Tavarres King on a 20-yard TD set up by Orson Charles blocking a punt.
The Bulldogs took a 3-0 lead on Walsh’s first field goal, a 53-yarder, and scored 20 points in the second quarter and never trailed.
Georgia had allowed only two offensive touchdowns in the previous four games. The Bulldogs gave up three to Vandy, two in the final 16 minutes as Zac Stacy capped an 84-yard drive by running for a 19-yard TD with 9:15 left.
Vanderbilt’s best offense early came on a fake punt when the backup punter completed a 35-yard pass, and on a halfback pass when Stacy tossed a 43-yard TD pass to Jordan Matthews. Andre Hal also returned a kickoff 96 yards for a TD in the third quarter just after Georgia took its biggest lead of the game at 23-7.
Rodgers, who came in after Larry Smith was intercepted for the second time, drove the Commodores 75 yards to set up Jerron Seymour’s 1-yard TD with 26 seconds left in the third.