By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Georgia Bulldogs knew they could run the ball better than they did last season, and now they’re starting to show just how much they can punish opposing defenses.
Nick Chubb ran for two touchdowns and 138 yards, and fifth-ranked Georgia routed Vanderbilt 45-14 Saturday despite missing three players from the Bulldogs’ stingy defense.
Georgia (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) now is off to its best start since 2005 when the Bulldogs won their first seven games and longest winning streak since reaching the SEC championship in 2012. The Bulldogs also avenged a 17-16 loss to Vanderbilt last year
The Bulldogs ran through and over Vanderbilt, piling up 423 yards for their best rushing day since 1987 — also against Vanderbilt. Sony Michel added 150 yards and a TD, while Elijah Holyfield scored his first career TD on a 15-yard run. Georgia set the tone on its opening drive, running all seven plays for 83 yards
“That’s the mentality of this team,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “It’s not really a scoreboard deal. It’s like we really just want to see if we can make the other team quit. And if you can try your best to make them quit and you start seeing the, I guess, the falling in, the pushing, the movement, you know that you’ve got them where you want them.”
Chubb, who became only the eighth running back in SEC history to reach 4,000 yards rushing in his career, credited the offensive line for a strong performance.
“Every play felt like I was getting like 10 yards, and the other guys, too, from watching it,” Chubb said. “And that starts up front.”
Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3) lost its third straight to wrap up the toughest four-game stretch in school history against the Commodores’ fourth consecutive ranked opponent.
“We’ve played some tough teams, but that doesn’t excuse the way we played,” Vandy coach Derek Mason said.
Injuries kept linebacker Reggie Carter and tackle Trenton Thompson at home for a Georgia defense that came in second in the nation giving up just 9.2 points a game. Starting linebacker Natrez Patrick stayed home after being arrested Thursday night on charges including possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. Carter is Patrick’s backup, so Juwan Taylor started for Patrick.
Smart said Patrick’s situation would be handled internally.
Chubb finished off the opening drive with a 33-yard run that put Georgia ahead to stay. Freshman Jake Fromm, who started his fifth straight game, also tossed a 5-yard TD pass to D’Andre Swift in the second quarter, and Chubb added a 14-yard run late in the first half for a 21-0 lead.
The Bulldogs stretched their scoreless streak to seven quarters and nearly had an eighth before Ralph Webb capped a drive with a 1-yard TD run just before halftime. Those were the first points allowed by Georgia since a field goal by Mississippi State on Sept. 23.
Fromm padded the lead to open the third quarter with his second TD pass, a perfectly thrown 47-yarder to Terry Godwin for a 28-6 lead.
Georgia: The way the Bulldogs run the ball with Chubb and Michel, they don’t need much from their quarterbacks. Fromm still proved very efficient, going 7 of 11 for 102 yards passing. Jacob Eason didn’t replace Fromm until 10:15 left in the fourth quarter and was immediately sacked and stripped of the ball to set up Vandy’s second TD.
“Our backs and our O-line just kind of singlehanded took over,” Smart said.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores now have given up the two largest rushing performances this season. They allowed a league-worst 496 yards rushing in a 59-0 loss to No. 1 Alabama on Sept. 23. At least their run game showed signs of life with Webb ripping off a 28-yard run that was his longest this season in the first quarter.
Mason, who oversees the defense, said the Commodores have to fix what ails them: defenders were in the right spots but didn’t tackle well.
The Bulldogs certainly avoided any letdown after their 41-0 rout of Tennessee last week with the kind of dominant performance that could move them up another notch, especially with No. 3 Oklahoma’s 38-31 loss to Iowa State.
Chubb’s two TDs gave him 37 for his career, second only to Herschel Walker (49) for most TDs rushing for Georgia. He also got his 21st 100-yard rushing game, second only to Walker’s 28 such games. Chubb also is second to Walker (994) with 626 rushing attempts.
Georgia: Host Missouri.
Vanderbilt: at Mississippi.