Kirby Smart: UGA needs to look itself in mirror after Vandy loss

RAW: Kirby Smart on upset to Vandy

The past two home games for the Georgia Bulldogs have come down to one play.

Two weeks ago against Tennessee, it was the Hail Mary play in the final seconds to give the Bulldogs their second consecutive loss of the season.

This week, coming off a victory on Sunday against South Carolina, it's the failed 4th-and-1 against the Vanderbilt Commodores.

The Bulldogs trailed 17-16 with about one minute left in the game. Jacob Eason had connected with Terry Godwin on 4th-and-13 to get the Bulldogs to midfield. But four plays later, it was fourth and just one yard that would stump the Bulldogs.

After Vanderbilt called two timeouts, Eason tossed the ball to wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. He followed Nick Chubb towards the right sideline, but Zach Cunningham suddenly appeared, tackling McKenzie short of the first down.

Georgia (4-3, 2-3 SEC) gave the ball back for Vanderbilt (3-4, 1-3 SEC) to take a couple of knees and hold on to a 17-16 victory at Sanford Stadium - their first SEC win of the season.

Head coach Kirby Smart called the loss "unacceptable" and said it started with him.

McKenzie replayed the failed conversion in his head and thought he was going to get it, but said he was blindsided by Cunningham:

McKenzie had four catches for 56 yards.

After a dismal performance against South Carolina, freshman quarterback Eason bounced back and arguably had the best game of his young career. He threw for a season-high 346 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked once.

Eason connected with tight end Isaac Nauta for a 17-yard touchdown to give Georgia its first lead, 13-10, in the third quarter. Before that, Georgia had relied on field goals by freshman Rodrigo Blankenship, a bright spot for the Bulldogs after the kicking game was in disarray to start the season. Blankenship was 3-for-3, with his longest from 45-yards out.

Vanderbilt took the lead back with roughly 10 minutes left in the game. After a 27-yard pass to Kalija Lipscomb and 37 yard pass to Ralph Webb, Khari Blasingam ran 2-yards for the touchdown. The extra point by Tommy Openshaw gave the Commodores a 1-point lead.

Georgia trailed early for just the third time this season after Vanderbilt scored on the third play of the game on a 1-yard run by Webb. Vanderbilt's Darrius Sims ran the opening kickoff 95 yards to threaten early.

Special teams were an issue for Georgia the entire game. Besides the opening kickoff, Reggie Davis caught the second half kickoff with his foot out of bounds inside the 5. Vanderbilt's punter had several rugby-style kicks that put Georgia deep in its own territory to start drives. Meanwhile, the coverage on their own punts was lacking. Kirby said special teams were undoubtedly a reason for the loss.

The Bulldogs had no trouble moving the ball and had 421 total offensive yards compared to the Commodores' 171. But the Bulldogs were 6-17 on third downs and struggled to complete drives.

In the second quarter, Georgia put together a 14 play, 84-yard drive in which they picked up six first downs and converted twice on third down. But as the Bulldogs neared the red zone, a false start and illegal motion penalty kept them from moving forward. Eason overthrew Riley Ridley who was in the end zone. He scrambled on third down, but was shy of the first down, leading to Blankenship's second field goal.

Eason had 17 yards on the ground, and the running game led by senior Nick Chubb had just 75 yards. Smart was weary of his freshman quarterback taking hits while scrambling. 

Chubb, who rushed for 40 yards, was stumped by Vanderbilt's defense.

Georgia's defense held its own in the game and Smart gave them credit. After allowing the opening touchdown, Georgia held Vanderbilt to three consecutive three-and-outs, highlighted by a sack by Lorenzo Carter. He had two sacks in the game. Jonathan Ledbetter, who was suspended the first six games of the season for his second DUI, came in the second quarter. His first tackle was for a loss.

But despite the defense's efforts, the offense couldn't get it done. Quincy Mauger didn't even want to talk about the offense's failed fourth down, saying "no comment." He did say that these kind of games can happen in the SEC on any given week. 

The Bulldogs head into a bye week before heading to Jacksonville, Fla. to take on the Florida Gators in two weeks. A win against Vanderbilt and Florida could have given them a serious chance to contend in the SEC East. However, those hopes have almost completely vanished.

PHOTOS | UGA vs. Vandy 

(© 2017 WXIA)


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