Outgained 421-171 by Georgia, Vanderbilt managed to spoil the Bulldogs’ homecoming with a 17-16 victory thanks to a remarkable day by inside linebacker Zach Cunningham.
The All-American candidate stopped wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, who took a handoff out of the backfield, short of a first down on a fourth-and-1 from the Vanderbilt 41 with about a minute to play. Cunningham, a junior, finished with 19 tackles.
It was the first SEC road win for Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason in his three seasons at the school.
The Commodores held a one-point halftime lead, 7-6, and went up four when kicker Tommy Openshaw nailed a 38-yard field goal early in the third quarter. But the Bulldogs took their first lead of the day with 9:46 left in the third quarter when quarterback Jacob Eason hit tight end Isaac Nauta with a 19-yard scoring strike.
A 36-yard field goal by Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship extended the UGA lead to six. But Vandy stormed back with a nine-play, 51-yard scoring drive, taking the lead on Openshaw’s extra point after a 2-yard run by running back Khari Blasingame tied the game with 9:43 to play.
Vanderbilt’s Darrius Sims returned the game’s opening kickoff to the Georgia 3. Two plays later, running back Ralph Webb crashed into the end zone just 22 seconds into the game, giving the Commodores their first offensive touchdown in almost 11 quarters of Southeastern Conference play.
Blankenship answered with a 45-yard field goal later in the quarter, and added another from 22 in the third.
Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason hit wide receiver Reggie Davis for 32 to get Georgia across midfield in the final moments of the first half, but the Bulldogs couldn’t convert a Hail Mary pass, and trailed 7-6 at the break despite a 204-64 edge in yardage.
A 38-yard field goal by Openshaw opened the second half, giving Vanderbilt a four-point lead.