NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — No. 1 Georgia reached its first break of the season, and the timing is perfect after star tight end Brock Bowers hurt his left ankle against Vanderbilt.
Carson Beck threw for 261 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score as Georgia shook off an early kickoff to beat the Commodores 37-20 Saturday.
“I’ve never had a bye week that came at the wrong time,” coach Kirby Smart said of his Bulldogs having a week off before their next game Oct. 28.
Georgia (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) extended its school record and longest active FBS winning streak to 24 consecutive games, and tied the school record for consecutive SEC wins at 23, first set between 1980 and 1983.
The Bulldogs have won 34 straight regular-season games.
Bowers hurt his left ankle midway through the second quarter, not that it mattered as Georgia scored 27 straight points to take control. Smart said X-rays were negative, but Bowers and right tackle Xavier Truss both will have MRI exams for sprained ankles.
“Obviously here at Georgia, next man up mentality,” Beck said of losing Bowers during the game. “We fully expect anybody that’s going to come in behind him to step up and replace him.”
Vanderbilt (2-6, 0-4) lost its sixth straight overall and sixth consecutive to Georgia.
The Bulldogs held the ball more than 37 minutes, outgaining Vanderbilt 542-219. Daijun Edwards ran 20 times for 146 yards and a TD. Smart credited Georgia fans with making this road trip into a stadium with construction just past each end zone feel like a home game.
“When we came out for the main part of the game, there was a sea of red there as you came across the field and a lot of red on their side,” Smart said.
The Commodores opened the game taking a 7-0 lead with their first TD against Georgia under coach Clark Lea. The score also marked their first points since a 30-6 loss in 2019 in this series. Georgia had outscored Vanderbilt 117-0 combined over Lea’s first two games at his alma mater.
Lea said his Commodores now have to rest up as well and try to finish the final four games strong.
“Our margins are razor thin, and against a team like that, those margins tighten even further,” Lea said of playing the defending back-to-back national champs.
Ken Seals, making his third straight start for the injured AJ Swann, connected on all four of his passes, the last to freshman London Humphreys who went untouched for a 49-yard TD raising his right hand in the air as he crossed the goal line.
Beck tied it with a 1-yard keeper, and he put Georgia up 24-7 at halftime with a 4-yard TD pass to Dominic Lovett in the final seconds after an interception by Tykee Smith. Kendall Milton ran for a 3-yard TD, and Peyton Woodring added three field goals.
The biggest concern for Georgia might be the health of its preseason All-American tight end. Bowers hurt his left foot at the end of a 14-yard carry midway through the second quarter when tackled on the sideline. He got up, limping heavily before going down to both knees and punching the turf.
He walked to the sideline with trainers and straight into the sideline medical tent. Then he walked with help and a limp off the field toward the Georgia locker room.
“It’s looks like it’s lower, but we don’t know,” Smart said of Bowers’ ankle.
Georgia: The Bulldogs can be forgiven for a sluggish start considering they kicked this game off at 11 a.m. local time in the midst of a literal construction zone with cranes holding up the video board in one end zone.
Beck was picked off to set up Vanderbilt’s final TD. They also lost one of three fumbles, though center Sedrick Van Pran recovered one and gained 6 yards.
“I’m really proud of our players being resilient and fighting through some turnovers, some adversity, some sloppy play, some injuries,” Smart said. “But at the end of the day they responded and they got up to play on the road in the SEC.”
Vanderbilt: The Commodores scored their most points against Georgia since 2013 in a 31-27 win. That was their last win in a series where Georgia now leads 29-12-2 just in games played in Nashville. The last time they hosted the No. 1 team in the country, Vanderbilt was shut out 59-0 by Alabama also in 2017.
Some might hold Georgia’s slow start against the Bulldogs, but their spot atop the Top 25 should continue.
Georgia gets to rest before going to Jacksonville to play Florida on Oct. 28.
Vanderbilt also has an open date before visiting No. 13 Mississippi.