Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray hands the ball off to running back J.J. Green during a game earlier this season. With the rash on injuries in the Bulldogs’ backfield, Green will see plenty of action today against Vanderbilt. (Reuters)
ATHENS — After a tough 41-26 home loss to Missouri, injury-depleted Georgia will try regroup to for its showdown vs. Vanderbilt.
“We are going to Vanderbilt coming off a loss and one that stung,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “But we know in our league you have to shake it off and get ready to go again, because no one is going to feel sorry for you.”
Georgia (4-2, 3-1 SEC) had its 15-game winning streak at Sanford Stadium snapped and now finds itself trailing Missouri in the SEC East race. That leaves the Bulldogs with little margin for error if they want to return to the SEC title game for the third straight season.
“Right now that goal is still attainable,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “We feel like if we take care of business and we win the rest of our games, Missouri has a very tough schedule left, then who knows what happens. They might win all their games, or they might lose a couple and give us a shot. We just have to take care of business and we can’t lose anymore. Hopefully we will be back in Atlanta.”
To do that, Georgia must improve a defense that still ranks last in the SEC in points allowed. The Bulldogs have given up 33.7 points per game.
Georgia’s much-maligned secondary will face another challenge against a Vanderbilt pass offense than ranks fourth in the SEC at 272 yards per game. Vanderbilt senior receiver Jordan Matthews leads the SEC in receiving with 709 yards and has scored 5 TDs this season.
“We obviously all know about Jordan Matthews who is a great receiver, but they also have a couple of other guys on the perimeter who are good receivers, and backs that can come out of the backfield too,” Georgia safety Connor Norman said. “Really, it’s going to be all about our assignments and executing what’s called.”
Vanderbilt is coming out of its bye week after being outscored 125-88 in its three SEC games.
Things likely won’t get any better with Georgia in town, as the Bulldogs have won 10 in a row at Vanderbilt Stadium and 17 of the last 18 meetings overall in the series.
“You don’t want to reinvent the wheel over the bye week and you just want to tweak some things that are simple adjustments for you, but give a different appearance to the defense, and that’s all we are trying to do,” Commodores coach James Franklin said.
Murray, who has thrown for 1,824 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, has been the steadying force on a team plagued by a rash of injuries. The Bulldogs played Missouri without their top two runners and three of their top receivers.
Vandy quarterback Austyn Carta-Sameuls (1,561 yards, 10 TDs) leads a passing attack that is ranked fourth in the conference at 272 yards per game. His main target is Matthews, who has 47 catches for 709 yards and five scores this season and is just 103 yards shy of breaking the SEC career receiving yardage record of 3,093 held by Georgia’s Terrence Edwards (1999-2002).
An area where the Commodores need to improve is their red zone defense, which has given up scores 19 times in 20 chances and is ranked last in the SEC and 117th overall in the FBS.