ATHENS, Ga. — Derek Mason finally picked up the sort of victory that should ease some of the heat on the Vanderbilt coach.

Just the opposite for Georgia’s Kirby Smart, who is facing plenty of scrutiny after a stunning loss to the Commodores.

“Sickening,” Smart said.

Vanderbilt claimed its first Southeastern Conference road win in Mason’s three seasons as coach, upsetting Georgia 17-16 on Khari Blasingame’s 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and a huge fourth-down stop late in the game Saturday.

The victory set off a wild celebration as the Vanderbilt players raced over to Sanford Stadium’s famous hedges to celebrate with a small group of black-and-gold-clad fans.

“I told our young men this morning that if we wanted to do something epic, we needed to make sure we took the fight to them,” Mason said.

For Vanderbilt (3-4, 1-3), it was only the third win over Georgia in the last 22 meetings between the SEC East rivals. Mason had dropped his first nine league road games.

“You saw a football team committed to doing one thing, and that’s going on the road and getting a win,” Mason said. “We also talked about a new season, the second half of the season. We can’t do anything about what’s behind us, but we could do something about what is in front of us.”

The Bulldogs (4-3, 2-3 SEC) held a commanding lead in total yards, 421-171, but special-teams blunders doomed the home team. Not exactly what Georgia was expecting when it fired longtime coach Mark Richt and brought in Smart , who had been Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator at Alabama.

“It’s embarrassing, and I’m sick to my stomach,” Smart said. “I take full responsibility for it.”

Georgia went ahead for the first time early in the third quarter on Jacob Eason’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Nauta. The Bulldogs added their third field goal, stretching the lead to 16-10 with just under 14 minutes remaining.

But Vanderbilt responded with its only extended drive of the game, going 75 yards on eight plays to reclaim the lead when Blasingame powered over with 9:43 to go. The big play was a screen pass on third-and-12 that Ralph Webb took for a 37-yard gain to the Bulldogs 11.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Vandy quarterback Kyle Shurmur, “but that just isn’t our style, I guess.”

Georgia’s final drive was extended by Eason’s 23-yard pass to Terry Godwin on fourth-and-13, but the Bulldogs couldn’t convert when facing fourth-and-1 at the Vandy 41. In a puzzling move, the Bulldogs didn’t go with either of their star runners — Nick Chubb and Sony Michel — and instead pitched the ball to receiver Isaiah McKenzie after he dropped back into the tailback position.

McKenzie was thrown down about a foot shy of the first-down marker by Vandy linebacker Zach Cunningham, who finished with a staggering 19 tackles.

“We felt good about the play,” McKenzie said. “A guy came from the blind side and tackled me. He made a good play.”


Vanderbilt: The victory will take some of the heat off Mason, but the Commodores have yet to address their anemic offense. Other than one impressive drive, they barely moved the ball against Georgia.

Georgia: The offensive play-calling will surely come under scrutiny after the Bulldogs rushed for only 75 yards against Vanderbilt and didn’t turn to their top runners when the game was on the line.


Vanderbilt’s first 10 points were set up by special teams.

Darius Sims returned the opening kickoff 95 yards, setting up Webb’s 1-yard TD run that gave the Commodores a 7-0 lead just 22 seconds into the game. On the second-half kickoff, Georgia’s Reggie Davis made the catch along the sideline and inadvertently stepped out of the bounds at the 3. The Bulldogs went three-and-out, Kalija Lipscomb returned the punt 17 yards and Vandy didn’t even need to make a first down to set up Tommy Openshaw’s 38-yard field goal.

Smart called it “a comedy of errors.”


Eason threw for a career-high 346 yards on 27-of-40 passing, just six days after the freshman turned in a 29-yard performance against South Carolina that was Georgia’s fewest passing yards in a game since 1990.


Vanderbilt: The Commodores return home next Saturday to face Tennessee State. It will be only the second home game in six weeks for Vanderbilt.

Georgia: After the off week, the Bulldogs return to action Oct. 29 against Florida in the annual Cocktail Party showdown at Jacksonville, Florida.

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