Brandon Coutu kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired to help No. 24 Georgia overcome a 10-point halftime deficit and beat Vanderbilt 20-17 on Saturday night, avenging last season's loss in Athens, Ga.
"It's payback," Coutu said. "Now they know how it feels."
The Bulldogs danced on the Vanderbilt star at midfield after Coutu's kick sailed through the uprights. Georgia coach Mark Richt and Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson shook hands after the game, but got into a verbal confrontation walking off the field. Neither coach commented on the situation.
"Everybody is real mad," Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore said. "We really could have won this game."
Knowshon Moreno rushed for a career-high 157 yards in his first start for Georgia (5-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference), 123 of it coming in the second half.
Moreno, a redshirt freshman, had a 32-yard run to set up a Georgia touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, narrowing Vanderbilt's lead to 17-14.
Georgia tailback Kregg Lumpkin left the game in the third quarter with an ankle and knee injury, putting even more burden on Moreno - who was already replacing injured starter Thomas Brown.
Richt said he is not sure what his running back rotation will be when all three are active.
"He's an amazing player," Richt said. "I probably should have played him last year, looking at him now."
Vandy's Cassen Jackson-Garrison fumbled seven yards short of the goal line, setting up the Bulldogs' winning drive.
Matthew Stafford had 201 yards passing for Georgia, including a 32-yard touchdown pass to Sean Bailey, and an 11-yard completion to Tripp Chander that shortened Coutu's attempt.
"We never wavered," Stafford said. "We never gave up. We came out pumped up and ready in the second half."
Sean Walker caught a touchdown pass and ran for another for Vanderbilt (3-3, 1-3), which didn't score a point in the second half. His 16-yard touchdown pass, originally ruled incomplete, gave the Commodores a 17-7 lead in the second quarter. Walker bobbled the ball twice, but appeared to control it before falling out-of-bounds in the back of the end zone.
The ending, though, left a different feeling for Vanderbilt.
The Commodores pulled off a 24-22 upset against Georgia last season in Athens. This year, Vanderbilt essentially found themselves playing a road game for its homecoming with Georgia fans painting Vanderbilt Stadium red in a rare sellout.
"It's still a loss," Moore said. "Stuff happens. Good stuff and bad stuff. Last year, we made a field goal to beat them. So stuff happens both ways."
Stafford led the Bulldogs on a 10-play, 73-yard drive to set up the field goal by Coutu, his second of the game. Coutu also kicked a 31-yard field goal earlier in the fourth quarter, and missed off the left crossbar from 49 yards in the first quarter.
Vanderbilt had two time outs but chose not to use either on the final kick.
"I was trying to find Coutu before the final play," Richt said. "I was just trying to find him on the sideline. I was just going to say, 'Son, you might have to kick it three times. So just get it in your head."'
Vanderbilt swapped quarterbacks early before sticking with backup Mackenzi Adams.
Adams had 125 yards passing and a touchdown, and he also ran for 76 yards on several option plays. Chris Nickson made his 18th consecutive start for Vanderbilt, but saw limited action after the first quarter. Nickson went just 2-for-5 for six yards.
The Commodores tricked the Bulldogs most of the night, pulling several reverses and deceiving plays. The quarterback changes kept the Bulldogs off guessing.
"We had a package that would suit Chris Nickson well and a package that would suit Mackenzi Adams well," Johnson said of his quarterback rotation. "I just want to win, that's what we're trying to do."
Moore had 123 all-purpose yards, and his 39-yard rush in the second quarter led to a Commodores touchdown that put them ahead 10-7.
"We settled in and tried to run the ball more in the second half," Richt said. "Of course, Knowshon gave us a lot of reasons to do that."
The Associated Press News Service
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