ATHENS -- Jordan Jenkins recalls the feeling of disbelief following Georgia’s last trip to Vanderbilt two years ago.
Decimated by injuries and coming off a loss to Missouri, the 2013 Bulldogs were hoping to get back in the win column and keep their SEC championship game hopes alive.
But on that rainy October day, just about everything that could go wrong went wrong.
“My memory is a cold game, a lot of emotional calls and a long (flight) home,” Jenkins said. “It was definitely not one of the high moments of my life.”
Former Georgia defensive end Ray Drew was ejected on a targeting penalty, even though it didn’t appear he led with his helmet while hitting then-Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels. Ramik Wilson also was flagged for a targeting penalty on a fourth-down play, with replay indicating he led with his shoulder. The ejection was overturned, but the Commodores got 15 yards and a first down and eventually scored on the drive.
In that game, Vanderbilt executed a fake field goal for a touchdown and forced Georgia running back Brendan Douglas to lose a fumble late in the game on a fourth-quarter drive.
“I was just fighting for extra yards, and the ball slipped out,” Douglas said. “It was awhile ago, but I still think about it, I guess. I try to forget about it, learn from it and move on.”
That loss is still with the group of Georgia players who participated in it two years ago, even though the Bulldogs avenged the loss last season in Sanford Stadium 44-17.
“That was a bad loss,” left tackle John Theus said. “I definitely remember it. That wasn’t fun. It’s something to learn from, something us older guys remember.”
As much success as Georgia has had against Vanderbilt -- the Bulldogs are 54-19-2 all-time in the series -- winning in Nashville has been difficult in the past few trips. Three of Georgia’s past four games at Vanderbilt have been decided by five points or fewer. The Commodores’ recent home-field advantage in the series has Georgia head coach Mark Richt a tad concerned with how his team has reacted heading up there.
“That’s something we’ve got to work on, we’ve got to solve,” Richt said. “We’ve got to play better at Vanderbilt than we have been playing, and that’s one of our big challenges. Three out of the last four -- three were extremely close and we lost one of them. I think the other one, there was a little bit of a margin there. Just haven’t played extremely well there.”
This year’s Vanderbilt’s team, however, has dealt with a slew of injuries, including season-ending ones to receiver C.J. Duncan and left tackle Andrew Jelks. The Commodores dropped their season-opener 14-12 against Western Kentucky, thanks to three turnovers.
But Vanderbilt’s defense held the Hilltoppers to 246 total yards and showed it has some ability to play well. Head coach Derek Mason is calling the defensive plays, which Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert said has led to an uptick in pressure packages. Vanderbilt’s offense will look to utilize quarterback Johnny McCrary as a dual-threat option. McCrary threw for 217 yards and ran for 58 in the opener.
Center Brandon Kublanow said Georgia overlooked Vanderbilt two years ago and didn’t go into the game prepared as it should have been. The memory of the 2013 loss in Nashville is something this team doesn’t want to relive.
“There are always times you’re playing a school you think you’ll definitely be able to beat,” Kublanow said. “You can’t have that kind of mentality if you want to be a champion.”