October 13, 2007

Georgia breaks Vandy's heart on homecoming

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Vanderbilt broke Georgia's heart in Athens last year on Bryant Hahnfeldt's game-winning field goal in the final seconds. On Saturday night, Bulldogs' kicker Brandon Coutu returned the favor.

With the score tied and five seconds remaining, Coutu drilled a 37-yard field goal as time expired, making Georgia a 20-17 winner over the Commodores

Coutu's kick ruined Vanderbilt's homecoming in front of a sellout crowd of 39,773 at Vanderbilt Stadium.

"It was a very disappointing loss for us tonight," said Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson. "We felt like we played a pretty good game, but when you play teams like Georgia, you have to make plays and do what you need to do to win, and we didn't get it done."

With the game tied at 17, the Commodores appeared poised to put a stake in the 'Dawgs heart and win consecutive games over Georgia for the first time since the 1950s, driving deep into UGA territory in the game's final minutes.

On a third-and-4 play from the Georgia 18, Cassen Jackson-Garrison ran over the right side of the VU line, rumbling past the first down marker to the UGA 10.
But Georgia's Roderick Battle jarred the ball loose from Jackson-Garrison, and Dannell Ellerbe pounced on it at the 8 with 2:43 remaining.

From there, Georgia tailback Knowshown Moreno and quarterback Matthew Stafford drove the Bulldogs 73 yards on 10 plays, setting up Coutu's game-winner.

"I have complete confidence in Brandon," said Georgia Coach Mark Richt. "I thought he could have made the field goal when we were on the 40-yard line."

The Commodores jumped out to a 17-7 halftime lead behind two touchdowns from Georgia native Sean Walker. The first came on an end-around pitch from D.J. Moore on a double reverse, the second on a 16-yard scoring toss to the back left corner of the end zone by Mackenzi Adams.

Georgia's only significant first-half offense came on Matthew Stafford's 32-yard pass to Sean Bailey with 8:13 left in the first quarter, one play after Jackson-Garrison coughed the ball up at the VU 32.

But the Commodores' offense went into hibernation the second half. The Commodores attempted just four passes in the second half, and gained 65 of their 98 yards on the drive that preceded Jackson-Garrison's fumble.

That allowed Georgia, led by Moreno's 123 second-half rushing yards, to catch up.

UGA pulled within a touchdown on Brannan Southerland's 1-yard plunge with 10:51 left in the third quarter, and Coutu converted a 31-yard field goal with 6:21 remaining for the tie.

Coutu's game-tying kick seemed to jump-start the Commodores offense from there. Mackenzi Adams, who spilt time at quarterback with Chris Nickson, threw a 39-yard strike over the middle to George Smith, putting VU at the Georgia 36. Two plays later, Adams' 9-yard scramble had the Commodores at the UGA 27.

That would be Vandy's last first down. Two plays later, Jackson-Garrison's fumble gave the 'Dawgs the ball back for good, where Moreno gained 30 yards on the ground and Stafford was 3-3 for 41 yards on the drive.

Vandy's Adams played well in his first significant action with the game's outcome in doubt this season. The sophomore rushed 14 times for 46 yards and was 7-10 passing for 125 yards.

"I was prepared to come in and out," said Adams, who rotated with Nickson throughout the evening. "That was the game plan, and that's what we are going to do."

Vanderbilt (3-3, 1-3 Southeastern Conference), having played five of its first six games at home, now hits the road for three of the final six.

Next up is a road trip to seventh-ranked South Carolina next Saturday. The Gamecocks won 21-16 at North Carolina on Saturday.

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