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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Behind enemy lines: Georgia

Ziyi Liu
Trent Sherfield dives for the end zone but was marked short during Vanderbilt’s 31-14 loss against Georgia, as photographed on September 12, 2015. (Hustler Multimedia/Ziyi Liu)

The Vanderbilt Hustler sports editor Robbie Weinstein and Red & Black assistant sports editor Wilson Alexander discuss the state of the Bulldogs ahead of Saturday’s game.

Robbie Weinstein: UGA has been up and down, but the 4-2 record seems decent enough based on who they’ve played. How has their play this year aligned with expectations coming into the season?

Wilson Alexander: I think the expectations are pretty much right on track. If you had said before this year, “This team is going to be 4-2 through six games,” I would have said that makes sense. But the way they’ve gone about getting to 4-2 has just been so strange, between barely beating Nicholls State, the way they lost to Tennessee and getting destroyed by Ole Miss. The record is what people expected in [head coach Kirby Smart’s] first year, but the way they’ve gotten to this point is just not what people expected at all.

RW: Do people at UGA like what they’ve seen from Kirby so far?

WA: Yeah, I think so. Of course, 93,000 people at G-Day kind of speaks for itself; that was just astonishing. So there’s definitely a lot of excitement around the program with fans, and [Athletic Director] Greg McGarity has been happy with him so far. Time will really tell, but in his first year people are really happy with Kirby. It seems like right now the program is really pointed in the right direction.

RW: One of the biggest plays from the UT game was that sack-fumble from quarterback Jacob Eason on the goal line. From a freshman quarterback, you kind of expect some slow decision-making and pocket-presence issues; have those been problems for him this year?

WA: No, it doesn’t seem like it. All you hear when you talk to players, talk to Kirby is that he’s always so calm, cool and collected. Kirby said one time, “He’s got more composure than I do.” And that’s not something you typically see from a freshman, but Eason can make big plays; he’s come up big in big moments. It’s getting consistent throughout the game that’s gonna be the issue. Like at times against South Carolina and Nicholls, he can show that he’s still a freshman. But he’s starting to get control of the huddle, he’s starting to figure out what to do at the line of scrimmage and that’s sort of the next step for him as a quarterback.

RW: Nick Chubb against Vandy for his career is almost at 10 yards per carry. A couple of teams have kind of been able to hold him in check; when it does happen, how are those teams able to do it?

WA: Well, it really isn’t anything they’re doing to stop Chubb, it’s what’s going on with the Georgia offensive line this year. The O-line has not been good. It’s undersized; Sam Pittman, the offensive line coach, doesn’t really have who he wants yet. He doesn’t have those big maulers yet. So they’ve had to get creative with more shotgun formations and outside runs, jet sweeps and those kinds of things to make it happen on the ground. Against Tennessee we kind of saw that, because it started working, and then against South Carolina they rushed for 326 yards. Now that was a South Carolina team that can’t really stop anybody on the ground, but it hasn’t really been about what teams do against Chubb. It’s more of a reflection on the offensive line.

RW: Do you think the line problems have shown up more in the run game of the passing game?

WA: Probably the running game, because there have been times where you expect Georgia to run for 200-plus yards a game every game, and there were a couple of games there where it wasn’t happening and Chubb had under 100 yards for I think three straight games. That’s not what you’d expect. So it’s a lot more glaring from the running game’s troubles.

RW: The defense seems like it’s been a little inconsistent, with a couple of good performances and some really bad ones too. Of course, UGA lost Leonard Floyd and some other NFL talent, so has that been the issue, that it’s been difficult to replace those guys?

WA: Well, it seems like the replacement guys like Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy and Chuks Amaechi have gotten better. At the beginning of the year, they definitely weren’t affecting the passer very much at all. But against South Carolina, UGA had 4.5 sacks, and also a lot of that I think had to do with the freshmen stepping up. Guys like Reggie Carter, Julian Rochester and Tyler Clark are getting playing time, making a difference and providing depth. And against Vanderbilt, they’re gonna get Jonathan Ledbetter back. So the defense is sort of on the way. I think part of the reason the pass rush hasn’t been there, as well, is that the secondary has been very up and down. They got burned by Missouri and Drew Lock but had good showings in some other games, so you really just don’t know what to expect.

RW: How do you see this one playing out? If you have a score prediction, you’re welcome to give that too.

WA: I’ve got Georgia winning this one 35-10. I know the Vanderbilt defense is playing well, but having it at home, for homecoming, I’ve got Georgia winning this one. I think the running game is gonna have a good day, Eason will have a good day and Vanderbilt’s offense just can’t keep up. I think everything’s gonna kind of click together for Georgia in this one, and it’ll be a good day for the Bulldogs.

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Ziyi Liu, Author

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