NASHVILLE — Georgia failed to polish off another opponent, but this time it wasn’t due to offensive inefficiencies.
Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray threw for a career-high 326 yards, and the Bulldogs needed all of them to stave off suddenly explosive Vanderbilt 33-28 Saturday night at Vanderbilt Stadium. Georgia, which had been so stout defensively the past month, allowed two second-half drives of 75 yards or longer to the Commodores, who managed just 77 yards last month at South Carolina and 190 last week at Alabama.
“We definitely feel like we survived one,” Murray said. “We’re nowhere near where we need to be in order to win the East Division and ultimately an SEC championship. We have a lot of work to do.”
Murray’s 75-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Brown early in the fourth quarter helped propel the Bulldogs to a 33-21 lead, but the Commodores responded with a nine-play, 84-yard drive that culminated with a 19-yard Zac Stacy touchdown run with 9:15 remaining. Vanderbilt forced Georgia to punt and took over at its 31-yard line with 7:03 remaining, but a bad third-down snap to Jordan Rodgers resulted in a 22-yard loss.
Casey Hayward intercepted Murray at the Vanderbilt 2-yard line with 2:30 remaining, but Bacarri Rambo intercepted Rodgers at midfield with 1:10 left. The Commodores earned one final shot with seven seconds remaining when Udom Umoh blocked Drew Butler’s punt, but Butler made a saving tackle and two plays from the Georgia 25 failed.
“They got it pretty clean, and luckily I was able to tackle the guy,” Butler said.
Georgia kicker Blair Walsh tied a school-record with six field-goal attempts, making four. When Walsh connected from 36 yards out at the 10:06 mark of the third quarter, the Bulldogs held a comfortable 23-7 lead, but that comfort lasted exactly 15 seconds. That was the time Andre Hal required to take the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to pull the Commodores within 23-14.
When asked if special teams were beginning to be a concern, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said, “I’ve been worried about it.”
Murray finished 22-of-38 for the 326, with all three totals representing career highs. He had three touchdowns and the one interception.
Brown, who has been bothered by an ankle injury for much of this season, set a career high with four receptions for 121 yards.
The Bulldogs improved to 5-2 overall and 4-1 in SEC play, keeping pace in the East Division race with South Carolina. The Gamecocks survived Mississippi State 14-12 Saturday in Starkville but may be without tailback Marcus Lattimore for a while.
Georgia’s four SEC victims — Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt — are a combined 1-13. The one win was Vanderbilt’s 30-7 thumping of Ole Miss.
Stacy finished with 97 yards on 17 carries, while Rodgers, who came off the bench in relief of Larry Smith, added 80 on 11. Smith had a first-quarter pass intercepted in the end zone by Brandon Boykin.
“A win is a win,” Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “They tested our discipline. When their quarterback started running, it became a new element to their offense.”
The Bulldogs will be off this week before facing Florida in Jacksonville on Oct. 29. The Commodores host Army this Saturday.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...