NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason says his quarterback Johnny McCrary is trying hard to make plays. The Commodores need to help him figure out how to protect the ball better with chances to score.
McCrary threw for 295 yards and a touchdown Saturday. But the redshirt sophomore also was intercepted three times, once in the end zone with the Commodores trying to rally late before losing 31-14 to No. 10 Georgia in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
In two games, McCrary now has been intercepted five times with three of those in the end zone, and the Commodores now are 0-2 to start Mason's second season.
"If we can fix our red zone problems, it will be good for us," Mason said. "We're racking up yards, but not points."
Vanderbilt was trying to beat Georgia in back-to-back games in Nashville for the first time since the 1950s. The Commodores held the ball for nearly 33 minutes overall and rolled up 231 of their 400 yards in the fourth quarter.
The Commodores, who trailed 14-6 at halftime, pulled within 24-14 after McCrary threw a 7-yard TD pass to Latevious Rayford with 4:33 left. Vandy recovered a short kick on the ensuing kickoff that combined with a penalty put the Commodores at the Georgia 8.
On second down, McCrary rolled right and threw into a crowd with Georgia linebacker Jake Ganus intercepting the pass. Dominick Sanders picked off a McCrary pass on the next drive and ran it 88 yards for the final touchdown.
"Ultimately, nobody wants to go 0-2," Vanderbilt nose tackle Jay Woods said. "But I see the improvement in our team, offense and defensively, so I feel like we're headed in the right direction."
Jordan Jenkins had two of Georgia's three sacks, and the Bulldogs intercepted three passes, with Dominick Sanders returning the third 88 yards for the final touchdown. Richt said the Bulldogs made enough mistakes to lose and luckily did enough right to win.
"Just to get out of a game like this with a victory and still be able to learn from it will be very valuable to us, and that'll be our goal," Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
Chubb and the Bulldogs' defense helped Georgia overcome a shaky performance by its quarterbacks by rolling up 281 yards rushing. Greyson Lambert didn't complete a pass in the first half and didn't complete a pass until his eighth attempt early in the third quarter. He was 11 of 21 for 116 yards, and Brice Ramsey was 2 of 4 for 25 yards off the bench.
McKenzie returned the ensuing punt for a touchdown putting Georgia ahead to stay late in the first quarter. The sophomore sat out the opener because of a sore hamstring, and McKenzie turned in the third TD off a punt return for his career.
Michel finished off the drive giving Georgia a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter. Georgia led 14-6 at halftime after Tommy Openshaw, who connected from 47 and 41 yards, knocked a 44-yarder off the left upright just before the break.
The Bulldogs seized control in the third quarter, outgaining Vandy 143-10 and scoring 10 points. Lambert finished off a drive with a 5-yard TD run of his own.
AP College Football website: http://www.collegefootball.ap.org
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