Georgia’s offensive line made sure history wouldn’t repeat itself.
A year ago at Sanford Stadium, the Bulldogs were only able to muster 75 rushing yards against Vanderbilt. The line, a much maligned group last season, wanted to reverse that narrative in a big way.
And it did.
Georgia’s rushing attack demolished Vanderbilt up front with 423 yards on the ground during Saturday's 45-14 win. The offensive line continually pushed the Commodores’ front backward, with running backs Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, D’Andre Swift, Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield all finding a ton of room to run.
“We challenged (the offensive line) on Monday that I think last year they had (75) yards rushing, I think that was it,” Smart said. “That’s embarrassing and they don’t like that. You get some fire under Isaiah (Wynn) and those guys and they tend to play well.”
The line was a highlight, which prompted Smart to hand out the verbal game ball to it immediately after the game.
Saturday’s performance marked the first time since 1987 that Georgia ran the ball for over 400 yards in a game. Naturally, the opponent in that game was also Vanderbilt.
“The game ball goes to our offensive line. They played physical, they played tough,” Smart said. “They overpowered what I think is a good defensive front. Vanderbilt may not be as good as they were last year defensively, but they’ve still got some good players on defense. Our backs and our O-line just kind of single-handily took over the game and made it relatively easy for the offensive coordinator to call it. When you can run the ball like that, it makes things much easier.”
In 2014 and 2015, Chubb and Michel established themselves as premier backs in the SEC, running behind holes and tallying a lot of yardage. Then last season happened, which featured a statistical drop-off. A lot of that had to do with the offensive line up front, which didn’t generate a push during an adjustment year between coaching staffs.
Now, Georgia’s line has a year of experience and some added size up front – especially on the right side with Solomon Kindley and Andrew Thomas. Chubb has seen a big change from this group, which has allowed for his increased production.
“They’ve grown. I’ve been a witness of it,” Chubb said. “Since last year to now, those guys worked extremely hard in the offseason – lifting weights, running, doing whatever they can, watching film – to make the O-line better. You couldn’t ask for a better O-line right now.”
Michel said the line’s practice habits have turned it into a formidable unit that is beginning to get the best of opponents.
“They’ve grown with their preparation,” Michel said. “It’s how they prepare at practice. They go out there and grind. When they come out here it’s almost a little bit easier for them.”
Smart certainly felt the story of Saturday’s game centered on a dominant offensive line that asserted its will on the Vanderbilt defense.
He even said as much when the subject turned to quarterbacks during his post-game news conference.
“You know what the story ought to be? Georgia’s O-line finished Vanderbilt off,” Smart said.