NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Georgia coach Mark Richt admitted he was a little worried about his team's focus heading into Saturday afternoon's game against Vanderbilt.
With good reason: After dropping a heartbreaker to LSU and then getting thumped by Tennessee, Richt had no idea what the affect would it would have.
He shouldn't have been concerned.
Georgia played arguably its most complete game of the year, rolling past the out-manned Commodores 34-10 before an announced crowd of 38,340 chilly fans.
"We were emotionally ready to play this game. It's hard to do. It's hard to do sometimes. It's hard to do after a 3-3 start and I'm not talking in terms of Vanderbilt, being here or anything like that. Being able to battle through a week of a lot of outside things happening that can take our focus and maybe even take your heart," Richt said. "But they've really had a great spirit in the lockerroom before the game. I like the way they prepared, really the last few hours before the game and I felt their energy. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to get them fired up; they got me fired up today. They really did a good job."
There was a lot to feel good about.
Offensively, Georgia (4-3, 3-2) enjoyed its most balanced afternoon to date, rushing for a season-high 173 yards while quarterback Joe Cox completed 16 of 31 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, one that wide receiver A.J. Green took on a screen to his left and turned into a 65-yard scoring play.
Freshman Washaun Ealey led the way with 71 yards on 13 carries with redshirt freshman Dontavius Jackson chipping in with 38 on just three carries late in the fourth quarter.
Caleb King only rushed for 15 yards, but tallied his first career touchdown on a 2-yard run early in the second quarter followed by a 21-yard score on a screen pass from Cox early in the fourth.
Kicker Blair Walsh added field goals of 42 and 43 yards while fullback Fred Munzenmaier capped the scoring for Georgia with a 9-yard run to account for the final 24-point margin.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were solid. Besides limiting Vanderbilt (2-5, 0-4) to 296 total yards, Georgia recorded 12 tackles for loss, including three sacks, one each by Justin Houston, Demarcus Dobbs and Kade Weston.
"We needed a game like this today," Cox said. "I don't want to know what it would have been like if we had come out and lost three games in a row and then had a week off to think about it. Hopefully, we can go into the break, get refreshed, and get ready for the next team."
That next team just happens to be defending national champion Florida two weeks from now in Jacksonville.
But before the Bulldogs start worrying about the Gators, Green said he and his teammates will enjoy Saturday's victory. At least for a little bit:
"We'll have nothing to lose," he said. "Going into the Florida game, we're just going to walk in, play hard and see what happens."
No doubt the Gators will be paying close to attention to Green, who finished with three catches for 95 yards, 65 coming on one of the more amazing plays of his brief Bulldog career.
The play was a simple screen where Cox turned and swung the ball out to Green just a few yards to his left.
Green did the rest, avoiding the tackle, cut back to his right and weaved his way through the middle of the field to complete the scoring play with 52 seconds left in the first quarter to put Georgia up 7-0.
"I've stopped being amazed at A.J. because he seems to do that kind of thing every time," Cox said. "It was kind of funny. He did that same exact thing during practice one day, so it wasn't terribly surprising to see him do it during a game."
Meanwhile, Georgia's defense was having one of its better halves.
The Bulldogs held Vanderbilt to 150 first-half yards, the only points coming on a 41-yard field goal by Ryan Fowler.
Georgia answered back with a 64-yard drive, which included passes of 15 yards to Green and 21 yards to Orson Charles giving the Bulldogs a first-and-goal at the 6.
King did the rest, picking up four yards before sliding into the end zone from 2-yards out for his first collegiate score.
Walsh accounted for the halftime score for Georgia with a 42-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the second quarter.
Vanderbilt opened the third by driving 80 yards on 16 plays, capping the drive on a 5-yard pass from quarterback Larry Smith to former Lincoln County standout Brandon Bardon to cut Georgia's lead to 17-0 before the Bulldogs reeled off 17 unanswered points to win going away.
"It was big for us to get three points at the end of the half, but to Vanderbilt's credit, they came out with a fire to start the second half but we were able to settle in and control the rest of the way," Richt said. "Towards the end, we wanted to get some young players in and let them play. It was just a good all-around win."
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