Vanderbilt rallies, upsets No. 15 Georgia 31-27
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt finally has its first upset of a Top 25 opponent under coach James Franklin, a win that had the Commodores singing with the band and dancing in the end zone.
They also likely ended No. 15 Georgia’s faint hopes of a trip back to the Southeastern Conference championship game for good measure, too.
Jerron Seymour ran for a 13-yard touchdown with 2:53 left, and Vanderbilt rallied from a 13-point deficit by scoring 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter Saturday for a 31-27 victory.
The Commodores (4-3, 1-3) hadn’t beaten a Top 25 team since Oct. 4, 2008, when they edged then-No. 13 Auburn in Nashville. They also got their first victory over Georgia in Nashville since 1991, snapping a six-game skid to the Bulldogs.
“When you take over a program like we did ... every win has been unbelievably significant to us and every win should be significant to our fan base and to our community and to our alumni because it’s an opportunity,” Franklin said when asked about the meaning of the biggest win since he took over in December 2010.
Vanderbilt rallied despite losing Austyn Carta-Samuels in the second quarter with an injured left leg that had him on the sidelines with crutches for the second half. Franklin did not have an update.
Receiver Jordan Matthews said it was tough to see Carta-Samuels hurt and replaced by Patton Robinette.
“At the same time in the game, you got to stay focused on the mission,” Matthews said. “I knew Patton was going to come in and do his job.”
Georgia (4-3, 3-2) failed to hold a 27-14 lead with 6:24 left in the third quarter following Marshall Morgan’s second field goal of the game. The Bulldogs had chances to rally, but Brendan Douglas fumbled after a catch with 1:59 left, and Aaron Murray was intercepted on the final play.
Coach Mark Richt was being criticized when Georgia lost its season opener to Clemson, and now the Bulldogs have lost two straight in the SEC. Richt said everyone wants to talk about how good things are when winning and everyone has an opinion when a team starts losing. He had a message for his team after this loss.
“I just wanted to make sure everyone understood that at Georgia we stick together,” Richt said.
Torren McGaster started the comeback by recovering a fumbled punt by Damian Swann late in the third quarter. Robinette ran for a 2-yard TD, and Carey Spear kicked a 40-yard field goal. Seymour put Vandy ahead a play after Georgia punter Collin Barber could only fall on a high snap at his own 13.
“We got the ‘W,’ so that’s the most important thing,” Robinette said.
Vanderbilt wound up holding the ball for more than 35 minutes and outgained Georgia 337-221 in total offense. The Commodores held Murray to just 114 yards passing, the third-lowest passing performance of his career.
Murray became the SEC’s career leader in total offense late in the first quarter with a 7-yard pass to Arthur Lynch. That put him a yard past Tim Tebow. Murray then finished off the drive with a 1-yard keeper, putting Georgia up 10-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The senior making his 48th career start also added a 2-yard TD just before halftime for a 24-14 lead. But with so many offensive players out with injuries, Murray couldn’t keep the Bulldogs’ hopes of an SEC East title alive.
“Definitely very stunning, it’s hard,” Murray said.
Vandy’s comeback was helped by the second targeting penalty against Georgia in the game. Robinette’s TD came on a drive kept alive when officials flagged Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson for hitting Vandy receiver Jonathan Krause with his shoulder on an incompletion on fourth-and-4. Review kept Wilson in the game, but the penalty stood for a first down.
Georgia already lost defensive end Ray Drew with 11:19 left in the second quarter. Officials flagged the defensive end for targeting when Drew hit Carta-Samuels after he threw a pass and pushed the quarterback to the ground. Georgia linebacker Jordan Jenkins tried to be careful after the game but was not happy with the call or the rule in general.
“I think it ruins the game,” Jenkins said. “I think it’s going to ruin the game of football.”
Georgia played without tailback Todd Gurley for a third straight game because of a sprained ankle, along with the other injured Bulldogs. The list grew longer as Bulldogs safety Josh Harvey-Clemons hurt his right foot in the first half and did not return.
Spear also ran for a 3-yard TD on a fake field goal in the second quarter, giving Vandy a 14-10 lead.
The Commodores had all the momentum as they forced Georgia three-and-out. Then they got too fancy, overloading the line wide left. Shaq Wiggins jumped the screen from Carta-Samuels from the side and returned the interception 39 yards for the TD and a 17-14 lead.
Carta-Samuels was knocked out of the game on the next series when sacked by Jenkins, one of three sacks by Georgia.