Behind Enemy Bylines: Georgia Bulldogs

The Hustler went Behind Enemy Bylines with John James, the football beat reporter for The Red & Black, to preview Vanderbilt’s clash with Georgia.


Mattigan Kelly

Vanderbilt’s Ken Seals makes a pass in Vanderbilt’s 62-0 loss to Georgia on Sept. 25, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Mattigan Kelly)

Andrew Wilf, Deputy Sports Editor

The Vanderbilt Commodores (3-3) will travel to Athens, Georgia to face off against the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs (6-0) at 2:35 p.m. CST this Saturday. 

The Bulldogs come into the matchup as 38.5-point favorites. The Commodores hope to compete against this talented Georgia team, especially after losing to the Bulldogs in humiliating fashion last season. Vanderbilt’s Clark Lea has high praise for Kirby Smart and Georgia’s entire roster.

“They’ve recruited well and they’ve reloaded,” Lea said on Tuesday. “They have a good defense and their quarterback is really good and the tight ends are really good. They are No. 1 in the country for a reason.

The Hustler interviewed John James, the football beat reporter for The Red & Black, to preview Vanderbilt’s battle with Georgia. 

Vanderbilt Hustler: Georgia is ranked first in the AP polls. What’s gone well for the Bulldogs this season?

John James: A lot has gone well for Georgia this season. The offense has had a few inconsistent games here and there, but they’ve really been dominant when they’ve been clicking and the defense hasn’t really had a bad day altogether. They [the Georgia defense] have had inconsistent halves. When the offense has been down this season, the defense has always been putting it together and keeping Georgia in games.

Your defense lost eight players to the NFL Draft last season, it seems like Georgia has not had much of a drop-off. Touch on that, if you can.

I think that really comes from George’s mentality as a group. The guys all buy into the program’s idea in general and that really leads them to think when it’s my turn, I’m going to step up and I’m going to carry the standard for the team and I’m going to show the young guys that, even if you have to wait a bit. 

Talk about your quarterback’s play. What have you seen in Steson Bennett thus far?

Stetson’s been mostly really good. He had a down day against Missouri and he had a down day in the most recent game against Auburn. But for the most part, he’s been really decisive. The injury to AD [Adonai] Mitchell has kind of weakened Georgia’s receiving core, which has stressed Stetson a little bit. He’s thrown to some guys he doesn’t know as well. So he’s had to rely on [Brock] Bowers and Ladd [McConkey and Kenny [McIntosh] much more than he usually would.

Let’s talk about the Missouri game. What has that game meant for the program and how has Georgia bounced back?

The Missouri game was interesting because Georgia’s offensive line hadn’t really met a team that pushed back against them. In that Missouri game, Missouri’s defensive line really established themselves and Georgia couldn’t really get anything going on them. The defense really carried Georgia in that game to the win because Missouri couldn’t really get anything massive going either. The defensive line kind of kept Georgia in the game for a while. In the fourth quarter, the offensive line got more momentum rolling because Missouri got tired out. It wasn’t Georgia’s best day and Kirby [Smart] was really happy after the game, actually, because he thought that going through adversity would make this team better in the long run.

Let’s shift our focus to the matchup this Saturday. What do you want to see from Georgia?

This Saturday, I want Georgia to show that Stetson Bennett can get it done even without AD Mitchell. I want Georgia’s defense to really make it hard on AJ Swann because he’s a freshman. I think Georgia’s defense is built to feed off of the inexperience of other quarterbacks. So if AJ Swann gets it going in this game, I think that’s a bad sign for Georgia. 

What is your score prediction for Saturday?

I predict a 48-6 Georgia win. I see two field goals [for Vanderbilt], probably later in the game, but it wouldn’t shock me to see Vanderbilt get a quick drive in the first quarter that catches Georgia off guard and Georgia would lock down after that.