But in the end, nothing much was going to help the Commodores against this undefeated Georgia bunch, and the 34-17 score was an accurate indication of where the squads are at this point in the season. The Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0) have dreams of an SEC Championship and a possible national championship, while Vanderbilt (4-3, 2-2) continues to dream of a bowl bid.
"We made too many physical and mental mistakes to hang in there with a team like Georgia," said Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson. "I thought we did some good things and had a chance, but dropped passes and letting people throw the ball deep on us, those are things you cannot do against Georgia and win."
On the bright side, Vanderbilt's offense showed a pulse, gaining 324 yards one week after getting manhandled by LSU. But there were opportunities for many more yards if the Vanderbilt wide receivers didn't battle the dropsies all night.
The biggest drop occurred in the third quarter with Vanderbilt trailing 27-14. Marlon White broke wide open behind the Georgia defense, but dropped a sure touchdown pass from Jay Cutler.
"They've been doing well all year," Cutler said. "I know Marlon and I know he's hurting. But I'm going to keep going to him."
The Dores still managed a field goal to cut the Georgia lead to 27-17, then forced a Georgia punt. Backbreaking Play No. 2 occurred three plays later, as Tyson Browning broke free and blocked a Vanderbilt punt. The play set Georgia up at the Vanderbilt 20-yard line.
Three plays later, quarterback D.J. Shockley put the game out of reach with a scrambling, 18-yard touchdown pass to Bryan McClendon. The play was reviewed, and replay official Ben Oldham upheld the ruling while ESPN broadcaster Sean McDonough strongly disagreed with the call on the air. Shockley finished 15 of 30 for 298 yards and three touchdown passes, all of which were made on the run.
"He broke our containment a lot and you know that going in," Johnson said. "We tried to do the best we could, and probably pressured him more than we thought we would." Shockley's counterpart on the Vanderbilt sideline – Cutler – was 15 of 28 for 174 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked four times and intercepted once on the night.
"My opinion before the season was that he was a first-team All-SEC quarterback and I think he is a first day guy in the NFL draft," said Georgia coach Mark Richt. "Our QB is pretty good, too, and without him, we don't win this game."
After rushing for negative-1 yard on five carries against LSU, Jeff Jennings picked up 84 on 18 carries against Georgia. Cassen Jackson-Garrison chipped in 61 yards, including a 50-yard burst in the third quarter.
"They have a good scheme," Richt said. "When you have a quarterback as good as Cutler, it is going to help your running game."
Georgia broke on top 7-0 when Kregg Lumpkin scored from nine yards out. Vanderbilt tied it on a four-yard run by Jackson-Garrison, but Georgia scored the final 10 points of the half on a 10-yard pass from Shockley to Brannan Southerland and a field goal by Brandon Coutu.
Georgia made it 24-7 early in the third on a Shockley-to-Mohamed Massaquoi score, but Vanderbilt fought back with a 14-yard touchdown pass to White from Cutler.
"He's a dangerous guy," Shockley said of Cutler. "It was one of those things where when they got the ball, I was always worried because he can make things happen. He kept our defense off balance tonight."
When Georgia had to make plays, however, it did, and now Vanderbilt must look ahead at its remaining schedule and find two more wins in its next four games. Chance No. 1 comes Saturday at South Carolina.
"I think our guys will accept the challenge and step up and work hard on fundamentals," Johnson said. "We still have a lot of work to do. That's the great thing about it – you get another chance next week."
Bill Trocchi is the Interactive Editor for Athlon Sports.